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Pomona Students Take on the Green Cup Challenge

How much can students impact energy consumption? That is the question put to the students of Pomona College in the first “Dorm Energy Conservation Challenge” running Nov. 1-30.

The student group Campus Climate Challenge is asking students to take at least five actions from the Pomona College Sustainability Pledge and conserve energy throughout November. The winning dorm will be presented with the Green Cup, a party and $2,000 for a dorm sustainability measure chosen by that dorm's residents.

The Pledge contains 16 actions, including:

  • Making sure a desktop computer is set to sleep mode, which uses 87 percent less electricity than leaving it on
  • Unplugging cell phones, cameras, charges and other equipment when not in use, since 75 percent of electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while they are turned off;
  • Using compact fluorescent lights
  • Thinking twice before printing or using take-out plates at the dining hall.

Ada Aroneanu, a senior who co-founded Campus Climate Challenge, is doing her part by replacing lights with compact fluorescent bulbs, cutting back on the fliers printed for clubs, turning off lights in unused public spaces, and unplugging her cell phone charger when the phone is fully charged. “Taking on the pledge has been incredibly easy, especially because everyone around continues to report how they are saving in different ways as well,” says Aroneanu. “In Clark I (residence hall), there are pledges everywhere, and I know that at least 90 percent of the dorm has taken the pledge.

“In terms of real changes, many people I've talked to have put their computers in energy-saving mode, have begun unplugging appliances when not in use, and have started using the cold water option on the washing machines, among other things. I also get the sense that sustainability issues are penetrating other campus dialogues--it's the type of movement that people are taking responsibility for in a way I really haven't seen until now,” says Aroneanu.

“It's an incredibly powerful feeling to realize that everyone's in it together. It’s also an incentive to take even more personal initiative if you know that your actions are amplified by the simultaneous actions of all your classmates to reduce their consumption as well.”

Praween Dayananda, a Pomona College senior who spearheaded the challenge, is optimistic that the dorms will achieve at least a 5 percent reduction in energy use. On North Campus, he reports that more than half of the residents in his dorm have signed the pledge and the petition to reduce the dorm’s heating temperature. People have also requested that lounge lights and vending machines be turned off to save energy.

To win the Green Cup Challenge, a dorm needs to have the highest percentage of pledges and the highest percentage energy use reduction compared to the average consumption for the dorm in November. As an added incentive, if all of the dorms achieve at least a 5 percent reduction in energy consumption and if at least 50 percent of all residents in each dorm sign The Pledge, Pomona College will purchase renewable energy certificates to offset 10 percent of the electricity consumption in all of its dorms. In November 2005, Pomona’s dorms and Walton Commons used just over 293,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Variations of the Green Cup Challenge have been held across the country. The Harvard University program (www.greencampus.harvard.edu/pledge) is considered one of the more extensive.