Students power down to defend campus conservation competition title

Matt Leonard
Online content editor

Students will be encouraged to carefully utilize their natural resources for three weeks in February, as VCU aims to defend it’s undefeated status in the Campus Conservation Nationals.

The competition pits different universities against each other to determine which school used less electricity over a three-week span. The schools are measured by tracking and comparing the energy output of dorm buildings.

The past two years saw VCU walk away victorious from a lone contender: The University of Richmond. The Rams triumphed over the Spiders by slim margins in the past two years — 0.5 percent in 2013 and 1.9 percent in 2014.

Now, however, there is new competition — making it a three-way race to use less energy. Old Dominion University will be joining this year after reaching out to VCU in hopes of learning from the experience.

“There is a chance that ODU will be better competition because we don’t really know what to expect,” said Parker Long, sustainability reporting and outreach coordinator at VCU.

Beginning the week of the competition, the Office of Sustainability at VCU will distribute information in the form of “Green Guides” on how students can conserve resources in their dorm room.

“We’d like people to unplug personal electronics as much as possible,” Long said. “And making sure they turn off lights when they leave.”

She added that her office will also be educating students on how to use less water, although water consumption will not be recorded as part of the competition.

Not all of the dorm buildings at VCU, U of R or ODU will be involved in the competition, however. Eligible buildings must be outfitted with unique dashboards to measure electrical output in real time. There will be eight buildings at VCU taking part in the challenge: Cary and Belvidere, West Grace South, Gladding, Ackell, Honors, Brandt, Rhodes and Cabaniss.

In 2008 VCU set a goal to reduce carbon output to 100 percent below that year’s levels. They did this when the university joined 685 other signatories in agreeing to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

The ACUPCC website states that the organization aims to “accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability by empowering the higher education.”

The Campus Conservation Nationals is just one part of achieving this goal, Long said.

VCU is one of 175 campuses across the U.S. and Canada competing in the CCN. Other Virginia schools include Radford University, Randolph University, James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.

Campuses across the country can hold their three week competition any time between Feb. 1 and April 30. VCU, ODU and U of R will be cutting back Feb. 8-March 1.

In 2014, 109 schools participated. The CCN calculated that the competition saved 2.2 million kilowatts worth of electricity.

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