Student group Green Campus Council (GCC) is challenging those in university residence halls to sign off, turn off and consume less energy with its second-annual energy conservation competition.

The competition matches residence halls in head-to-head groupings to see which buildings have the lowest energy consumption throughout the quarter. Mark Rousseau, environment and energy programs manager for Housing and Residential Services (HRS), said the amount of money saved through conserving electricity equates to cash that is then used to purchase iPod nanos, which are raffled off to the residents of the winning halls .

Rousseau said the contest benefits everyone.

“Less pollution is created and fewer power plants have to be built,” Rousseau said of conserving energy. “It also helps prevent blackouts like the ones that happened during the summer.”

Rousseau was referring to blackouts in Southern California caused by the lack of new electricity generated, as well as the depletion of the area’s electricity supply.

Chris Lee, GCC energy conservation intern and fourth-year environmental studies and business economics major, said cutting back on electricity positively changes the whole campus and has a ripple effect on university funding.

“Since the competition is allowing us to save energy, we have saved a lot of money, which impacts the entire university,” Lee said. “It helps with other areas, like not raising tuition and other retrofits.”

For the competition, Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Residence Halls compete against each other; San Miguel, San Nicolas and San Rafael Residence Halls are in another group; and Manzanita Village’s three quads — Las Encinas, La Patera and Los Robles — are in a third group.

After having energy meters installed in the summer of 2005, a new addition to this year’s competition is Francisco Torres Residence Hall (FT), with the North Tower competing against the South Tower.

Thus far, the winners in the competition are Anacapa, San Nicolas and the La Patera quad of Manzanita Village. Each respectively conserved 2.5 percent, 9.1 percent and 1.3 percent of electricity in comparison to the their buildings’ baselines — the average kilowatt-hours for the previous three years.

FT’s South Tower beat North Tower by 3 percent. Since the meters at FT have been running for less than a year, the comparison was made from the kilowatt-hours of the previous month — between Oct. and Nov. 2005.

Rousseau said the energy usage savings for fall quarter equate to a total of $2,500. With the money sustained from the competition, Anacapa and La Patera were able to purchase one iPod each, while San Nicolas and FT South were able to buy three iPods, which they raffled off.

“Student behavior helps in this contest,” Rousseau said. “By doing small things, students are able to make a difference. Saving electricity helps keep the [residence hall] rent down since, with the money saved, we don’t have to raise the prices.”

Amy Liu, environmental awareness chair of San Rafael and second-year environmental studies major, said she and other students in the residence halls have used several techniques to become more energy-efficient.

“I turn off my computer when I’m not using it and I take five-minute showers,” Liu said. “My roommate uses a fluorescent bulb for her lamp and we both turn off the light when we leave our room. We try not to use the elevator and the heater because neither is necessary. It’s very easy to do little things to conserve energy in the halls, and it all adds up in a big way.”

Another method GCC uses to aid in their endeavors, beginning this quarter, is the “Anti-Away Message” campaign, designed to encourage residents to shut down their computers instead of posting an away message on online chatting services like AOL Instant Messenger.

“It’s much more efficient to just put your computer on sleep mode or turn it off than it is to leave an away message up for hours saying that you’re asleep,” Lee said.

The group has also placed table tents in the dining commons giving tips on energy conservation, as well as advertising the competition.

Besides giving tips, GCC held a light bulb exchange program from Dec. 12 to 16, partially funded by HRS, during which students turned in incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. The group gave out nearly 1,000 bulbs during the swap and had a high response from the students, Lee said. GCC expects to conduct a smaller light bulb exchange outside of the dining commons during the quarter that would not be specific to the residence halls.

“The fluorescent bulbs give off the same amount of light as regular bulbs, but use half of the energy,” Lee said. “With the number of bulbs exchanged, we’re sure we’re going to see more energy saved.”

While the program is getting results, Lee said it is difficult to maintain the yearlong competition because each year a completely new group of residents moves into the halls.

“The competition is not a permanent thing,” Lee said. “It will probably go on again next year, but it’s intense for a program to expire because it isn’t a good use of money. It expires when the students in the dorms move out into I.V. and we have to start educating people on the importance of saving energy all over again.”