2019 Energy Challenge: Results, Analysis, and Why This Matters

By Lauren Ng, Sustainability Educator

As an institution of higher education, our fundamental purpose is to educate students who will enter the world as changemakers for a better future. If we want to see a more sustainable world, we must start by living it and speaking it. Energy is a finite, common good. Energy efficiency, or using less energy to do more work, is critical to sustaining our environment, our economy, and human life on this planet.

We share the planet, and its finite resources, with 7.7 billion other human beings, and all of us consume energy, whether it is for cooking fuel, heating our homes, getting to work, or turning on the lights to do homework at night.  As we transition to more renewable forms of energy, we also need to emphasize the importance of efficiency.  Think of it this way: Even if we produce more renewable energy, we still won’t meet demand if do not also become more efficient.  Particularly for those with the socioeconomic means to consume more energy, it is imperative to consider the externalities of that consumption, which often fall upon communities of color and lower socioeconomic status.

The Energy Challenge is a Soka tradition that started even before the Class of 2019 set foot on this campus.  In its fifth or sixth year running, the Energy Challenge is a battle between residence halls to see who can reduce their energy use the most. Following tradition, the winning hall also gets a pizza party.  The real prize? Seeing how much energy we collectively save.

Energy Challenge 2019 Results

Results and Analysis

Energy Challenge 2019 Results 1

The graph above depicts energy reduction, per person, per hall.

Halls 305, 370, and 385 did not experience much reduction in their energy use, which could be due to many factors, including the time period we chose, random events that affect electricity use, etc. For instance, Hall 385 had a problem with their heating system, so they were given space heaters, which consume more energy. This could explain why in the right-hand graph, Hall 385 experienced great negative reduction during Week 2 (the green bar).  Furthermore, we chose a baseline week in October as a point of comparison for energy reduction. High reduction in Hall 310 could be influenced by high energy use during the baseline week.

Energy Challenge 2019 Results 2

As you can see, these graphs look very different, because they show average consumption rather than reduction.  Even though Halls 305, 370, and 385 showed the least reduction, their energy consumption is about average with most other halls. These results should be cause to reflect on what causes some halls to have higher average energy use above others.

5 Tips to Save Energy

  1. Buy Energy Star-rated appliances. These meet higher standards for efficiency, and if you bring appliances with you after moving out, they will also save you money on your electrical bill!
  2. Unplug and defrost your mini-fridge before leaving for Spring or Winter break.
  3. Close your windows when the AC or heater is turned on. You don’t want all that energy going out the window!
  4. Use “tap cold” or “eco-warm” when you wash your clothes. Did you know that 90% of the energy used to do laundry is from heating water? You can make a big difference by choosing energy-efficient settings!
  5. Harness the sun’s energy! Hang your clothes to dry. Hang drying preserves the quality of your fabrics. Dryers cause our clothes to thin (as evidenced by the lint trap) and can ruin elastics (blended into our jeans, waistbands, etc.)

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