Eco-Challenge Update

October 28, 2010

GW students are competing to reduce their electricity and water consumption.

GW students are making strides to increase conservation during this year’s fourth annual Eco-Challenge competition.

Halfway through the semester-long challenge, the 16-participating residence halls have already conserved 2 million gallons of water. This is a 19 percent reduction from last year’s water usage.

The Eco-Challenge encourages students to reduce their water use by turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth, taking shorter showers and reporting sink and toilet leaks to the university’s Facilities Services. Students can also cut back on their electricity consumption by turning off unused lights, unplugging and powering down electronics when not in use and using a clothing rack to air-dry laundry.

This year’s challenge encouraged student leadership by asking residents with ecological interests to voluntarily enlist their halls to participate and to help their peers take small actions. April MacIntyre, an eco rep for Thurston Hall, signed up because she wanted to help curb the “culture of waste.” Thurston and Hall on Virginia Avenue are the only two halls that have reduced both water and electricity consumption during the first half of the competition. Thurston’s water usage has decreased by 22.6 percent, while its electricity consumption has gone down by 6.5 percent. HOVA decreased its water usage by 1.2 percent and its electricity consumption by 4.5 percent.

“I’m quite happy and surprised that Thurston is so successful in this challenge despite the latest heat wave in September, and I think it’s due to people cutting down their excessive air-conditioning habits,” says Ms. MacIntyre, a freshman in the Elliott School of International Affairs.

West End, HOVA and Thurston are the only three residence halls to see a decline in electricity usage. Overall, there’s been a 3.8 percent increase in electricity consumption amongst the 16 participating residence halls. University officials believe this can be attributed to the higher than normal temperatures in September.

“The increased usage of air-conditioning due to the weather is being reflected in the Eco-Challenge preliminary results,” says Casey Pierzchala, an energy and environmental analyst for GW’s Division of Operations.

The Eco-Challenge, which began Aug. 31, is a joint effort by GW’s Facilities Services and the Office of Sustainability.

"Participating in this challenge is our opportunity to reflect on our interactions with our buildings and their systems. We are learning that there are opportunities for improvement in how we manage and 'live' in our buildings," says Meghan Chapple-Brown, director of the Office of Sustainability.

Beginning this semester, the Office of Sustainability is launching the Green Office Program, which will work with all offices on campus to increase the sustainability of their operations.

“We hope to give faculty and staff the tools they need to take the necessary small actions to reach our sustainability goals,” says Sophie Waskow, GW stakeholder engagement coordinator.

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