EcoMadness Brings Out the Best in Students

UConn students again stepped up during the annual contest, reducing their water and energy use.

Hollister residence hall, one of four dorms in West Campus and the home of EcoHouse, won awards this month for lowest energy and water use per capita among residents, the first year these awards have been part of UConn’s annual EcoMadness competition.

Buckley residence hall won this year’s award for a more than 10 percent per person reduction in energy used during the contest, which ran from Sept. 27 through Oct. 25. Hanks Hall won the award for largest reduction in water use, cutting the amount of water used by nearly 14 percent per person.

“The students did a great job,” says Richard Miller, director of the Office of Environmental Policy. “The top 10 finishers in the energy competition each cut their consumption by more than 5 percent, and the top 10 residence halls in the water reduction competition each cut use by more than 6 percent. Coming as it did during a drought, with a water conservation advisory in place on campus, that was especially welcome. It looks like a lot of students were taking shorter showers, washing only full loads of laundry and doing many of the things we ask of them in our water conservation advisories.”

EcoHouse residents on average used less than three-and-one-half kilowatt hours of electricity and less than 31 gallons of water per day. This is the first year EcoMadness awards have been given in those categories, which recognize students who have lower consumption rates to begin with and manage to reduce their energy and water use even further during the competition.

Hollister finished third in energy savings during last year’s EcoMadness, won by Goodyear residents, who cut energy use by 13.2 percent. In 2008, two residence halls in the Towers complex ran away with the energy prize, cutting energy use by a whopping 28 percent. Throughout the competition, interns in the Office of Environmental Policy worked with UConn facilities staff to analyze data from the automated utility sub meters that are installed in the residence halls and then, twice a week, report the standings to resident assistants in the competing dorms.

Most of the residence halls taking part in the competition have a high percentage of first-year students, which helps organizers achieve an important goal of the contest.

“We try to raise environmental awareness among students early in their college career so, hopefully, they’ maintain more sustainable behaviors throughout their time at UConn and beyond, says Miller.

All but one residence hall in the water reduction category cut water use by at least 2.4 percent. In the energy competition, all but three of the more than two dozen dorms participating reduced energy use by at least 2. 3 percent.