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ISSUE 120 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/9/2007

Energy month reduces use

By Miriam Samuelson
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 9, 2007

During the month of February, colleges across Minnesota competed to use the least amount of energy per person. In an initiative driven by an inter-school coalition of environmental groups, students made small lifestyle changes to reduce their energy consumption.

Although energy-reducing competitions have occurred on campuses throughout the nation for the past few years, this February marked the first year that more than two campuses in Minnesota competed against one another. The “Energy War” began last year between St. Olaf and Carleton, and St. Olaf students reduced their energy consumption by 14 percent.

This year, however, 13 Minnesota colleges competed in the Energy War, and St. Olaf saw its energy consumption go down even further.

“We calculate electricity consumption per dorm room bed so we can see about how much each student uses,” said Pete Sandberg, assistant vice president for facilities at St. Olaf. “We measure how much we saved by comparing it to February of the previous year. This year our electricity consumption was down an additional 3.29 percent from last year.” 3.29 percent may seem meager in comparison to last year’s reduction, but the total reduction from 2005 to 2007 has been 22 percent, according to Sandberg. And although the temperature of the month can sometimes skew the data, gas and oil consumption (used mostly to heat buildings) was down about 13.5 percent from last year. The addition of the wind turbine to St. Olaf’s campus had no effect on these figures, said Sandberg. “It’s all about consumption. The wind turbine will be calculated in later, but the bottom line is that Americans need to focus on their consumption.”

Although other colleges have not yet released their official figures, the Environmental Coalition at St. Olaf is proud of the effort Oles put forth this year. “People were definitely more aware of [Energy Month] this year,” said Mary Sotos ‘07, participant in the Environmental Coalition and president of the FARME House. Members of the house and of the coalition made the initiatives of the month more visible this year by decorating the Buntrock hallway with statistics and energy-saving tips, and by putting notes above light switches and sinks in bathrooms.

The coalition also designated theme weeks and days during the month such as “wet hair day” and “shower with a buddy week,” and the FARME House used some of its funds to purchase a drying rack for each residence hall on campus. Other Minnesota colleges used similar advertising. Some colleges even broadcasted their efforts online, using the public arenas of YouTube, Facebook and various blogs.

“Hopefully students will take advantage of these things in the future,” Sotos said. “Our purpose was to promote goals that have global implications, but emphasize that the actions students can take to achieve these goals are small and don’t require much effort. We’re hoping that students will realize the effect that simple actions have on an entire community.”

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