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Students Explore Creative Ways to Save Energy

“Earth Hour” is introduced as part of Northwestern’s 2013 Green Cup Competition

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February 4, 2013 | by Emily Osborne
green cup
The Green Cup competition is in its eighth year. 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University students living in residence halls and Greek houses will be making special efforts to turn off lights, keep showers short and unplug electronics during the Green Cup competition that runs for the entire month of February.

The Green Cup trophy is awarded annually to those who most significantly reduce their use of water and electricity during February. The first Northwestern University Earth Hour on Feb. 21 also is part of the student-driven initiative. Northwestern is modeling its “hour” after Earth Hour, an annual international energy savings event.

Now in its eighth year, Green Cup is organized by Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED) with support from Northwestern’s Office of Sustainability.

“Engaging our students in sustainability is core to the success of Northwestern’s initiative in that area, and students’ commitment to Green Cup has been a critical piece of that effort,” said Rob Whittier, director of the Office of Sustainability. 

Northwestern also will compete in a similar national competition, the Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN), from Feb. 8 to March 1. Schools across the country compete in this national challenge for the greatest percent reduction of water and electricity in their buildings.

Twenty-seven residence halls and 15 Greek houses and their residents are participating in Green Cup this year. Contestants will be judged in the categories of “food-service residence,” “non-food-service residence,” “fraternity” and “sorority.”

The goal is to give students a better understanding of how simple changes and increased awareness can significantly reduce water and electricity consumption.

“Last year students saved 363,261 gallons of water and 73,375 kilowatt-hours of electricity through simple actions like sharing fridges, taking shorter showers and utilizing power strips and clothes drying racks,” said Julie Cahillane, manager of recycling and refuse in the Office of Sustainability. “Residence halls realized a 4 percent reduction in both water and electricity usage, and Greek houses averaged a 9 percent reduction.”

For Northwestern University Earth Hour, organized by the student group Eco-Reps, students will be asked to turn off all electronics as well as lights in their residence for one hour. Participants will gather at Allison or Sargent dining hall to celebrate Green Cup with prizes, food and music. 

Green Cup events include a screening of the film “Last Call at the Oasis” at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 in room 107, Harris Hall, and a green-themed Northwestern men’s basketball game at 6 p.m. Feb. 28. The Kellogg Energy Conference will take place from 12:45 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13. Other events are still being planned.

In addition to the trophy, the competition offers a number of prizes: a donation to the residence's Dance Marathon team, a catered dinner and “eco-friendly” items such as sporks, water bottles and other reusables.

All four first-place winners will receive a “green cup” trophy, which is hand blown and made out of green recycled glass. The trophies will reside in the winning residence halls and Greek houses until next year’s Green Cup winners are determined. 

“Green Cup is Northwestern’s one major event of the year that educates students campus-wide about environmental issues and the importance of conservation in our daily lives,” said senior Madeline Steger, Green Cup co-chair.

Scoring for Green Cup is based on a per person percent reduction in water and electricity usage as compared to an established baseline usage recorded in January and historical data for each residence.

As part of the Campus Conservation Nationals, each residence will have access to a hall-specific building dashboard website that will graphically display usage, tips for reducing usage and other information about the competition. 

The percent reductions of water and electricity usage for each building during the CCN competition period (Feb. 8 to March 1) will be used to determine how well Northwestern does in the CCN.

A few facts about energy and water usage:

  • Three to seven gallons of water are used for every minute in the shower.
  • Americans spend more money annually to power home audio equipment when turned off than when actually in use.
  • If you let the water run while brushing your teeth, five gallons of water are wasted.

 Conservation tips for saving energy and water include:

  • unplugging electronics when not in use
  • switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and using task lighting
  • washing clothing in cold water and only doing full loads
  • taking shorter, less hot showers
  • turning off the faucet when brushing teeth

Green Cup sponsors are SEED, the Office of Sustainability, Eco-Reps, Student Affairs, Northwestern Interfraternity Council, Northwestern PanHellenic Association and the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).

Topics: University, Campus Life