"Let there not be light" was the refrain in Baxter House throughout the month of October, when the house was competing in the 10th annual "Do it in the Dark" Energy Conservation Dorm Competition. The motto paid off —Baxter House took away the prize, boasting a 40 percent reduction in energy use. Moore Hall won among first year dorms with a reduction of 26 percent, and Baxter and West Hall were winners for largest reduction between affiliates.
According to students representing the initiative, the competition is designed to raise awareness about reducing energy usage and how students can adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle. The standings are determined by measuring the percent reduction in energy use during the month of October, compared to the overall energy use in September.
This year, the campus as a whole saved 24,995 kilowatt-hours during October, enough energy to power two homes for an entire year. The campus also consumed 6 percent less energy during the 2011 competition than it did in 2010.
Keisha Payson, coordinator for a sustainable Bowdoin, hopes that students develop habits that endure beyond the competition.
Reductions in energy usage usually "carry through for the month after, but when people come back from winter break, it's like they've forgotten all about it," she said. "You need to keep reminding people about it."
Responding to criticism that the methods of the competition favor older, more inefficient buildings and punish dorms that were environmentally conscious during September, Payson said, "All the first year dorms are on equal footing. They were all completely renovated within three or four years of each other."
For other buildings, the issue is more complicated. Payson cited the example of Quinby House, which had a very low level of energy consumption during September, before the competition had officially begun. She admitted that Quinby was at a competitive disadvantage, but said its residents could still compete against themselves.
The integrity of this year's competition has been marred by several allegations of sabotage. One reported instance of interference occurred on October 21, when Helmreich House trailed Baxter by only a few percentage points.
When asked what she saw late that night as she returned to Baxter, Allyssa Deorocki '14 said, "All of the lights were on. We went around turning off all of the lights when we realized that on the first floor all the sinks were running. On the second floor all of the showers were running and the sinks were turned to the hot water."
Deorocki said she suspected that Helmreich residents, green with envy and not environmental fervor, planned and executed the operation.
"We heard those accusations but none of us had anything to do with it. As far as we're concerned, they're just allegations," said Helmreich resident Emily Carr '14.
Of the accusations leveled against Helmreich, environmental activist Alex Tougas '14 said, "This competition fits in with a moral imperative to do something about the environment. Sabotage defeats our goals for this as a Bowdoin community and a world community working towards sustainability."
On the issue of sabotage, Payson said, "It is certainly disappointing. I'm sure the people who are doing it aren't trying to be hurtful, but they aren't thinking about the larger consequences of electricity use as it pertains to our goal of becoming carbon neutral."
There have been other instances of students trying to skew the results of the competition. A resident of Moore Hall covered the first floor entrance to the elevator with caution tape in an attempt to deter would-be elevator riders. The tape, which proved ineffective at keeping people at bay, was later removed.
The poorest performance in this year's competition came from Howell House, whose energy usage increased by 30 percent.
Noting a lack of enthusiasm for the competition among students in Howell, current resident Benjamin Rosenbloom '14 said, "People's desires for ease of nighttime movement outweighed their desires to perform well in the competition."