Western Carolina University won the three-week “Battle of the Plug” challenge against Appalachian State University, reporting a higher percentage of reduced energy usage in residence halls.
From Feb. 13 to March 2, WCU residential facilities reported a 7.5 percent reduction in energy usage while ASU reported a 2.4 percent reduction. ASU posted a congratulatory message to WCU on its energy saving tips website.
“The rivalry and students’ desire to ‘Beat App’ sparked a lot of excitement and involvement in the competition – more than any other energy savings initiative on campus that I’ve seen,” said Lauren Bishop, energy manager.
During the contest, WCU reduced energy usage by more than 38,000 kilowatt-hours, which is enough to power more than three homes in America for a year based on statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, said Bishop.
WCU and ASU entered the challenge within the framework of participating in the national energy conservation competition called Campus Conservation Nationals. Institutions across the nation track and report their electricity and water use as part of the contest, which was created by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and sponsored in partnership with Lucid, Alliance to Save Energy and the National Wildlife Federation.
The “Battle of the Plug” name is a spinoff from the WCU-ASU football rivalry in which teams compete in the “Battle for the Old Mountain Jug.” Bishop and Virginia Fowler, residential living’s assistant director for facilities, teamed up with several student organizations, including the EcoCats and Student Government Association, to promote the contest and energy savings information. Residence hall leaders hosted programs in their buildings. Public service announcements aired on campus radio. News of the event was fueled further by stories in local newspapers and announcements and discussions on social media sites.
Students were asked to unplug items such as cell phone and computer chargers when not in use and to turn off lights when they left rooms. Students also were encouraged to take shorter showers or wash clothes in cold water.
WCU’s SGA and EcoCats hosted a “dancing in the dark” event. Also, initiative organizers and the WCU Poverty Project sponsored “Power Out for Poverty,” a voluntary blackout day on Thursday, Feb. 16, to encourage poverty awareness and to focus attention on the impact of energy availability on reducing poverty.
In addition, WCU tracked which campus residence hall saved the greatest percentage of energy as part of an internal competition. Reynolds Residence Hall won by reducing energy usage by 23.7 percent and will be rewarded with installation of a hydration station. A hydration station features a traditional fountain with a separate nozzle for rapidly filling reusable water bottles.
“We wanted the reward to be something that reduced our carbon footprint, and the hydration station embodies that,” said Bishop.