The campus saved 6,178 kilowatt-hours during the “Do It in the Dark” energy competition, which took place throughout the month of October. Twelve of the 20 dorms used less energy in October than in September. Helmreich House led the way with a 32.3 percent reduction in energy usage, and West Hall performed best among first-year bricks, with a 22 percent reduction relative to 2013.

The annual energy competition began in 2001 and is meant to encourage sustainable habits.

“Our goal is not to drive people to do some extremes just for the sake to prove they can use less energy,” said Keisha Payson, coordinator for a sustainable Bowdoin. “But the point is to drive people to take on a different habit, like shutting lights off when they leave the room. Hopefully by doing that for a month, we will ultimately instill the habit so people can continue on after the competition is over.”

To encourage participation, the Sustainability Office awards $150 prizes to the winning first-year brick and College House. In addition, the buidling that improved most in the second half of October is also rewarded.  

“There are many factors coming into play in picking a winner,” said Kristin Hanczor, the sustainability outreach coordinator. “We have the website called [Building Dashboard]. Almost all of our residences are hooked up with the meter of electricity. We use that in order to run the energy competition and to see how houses are improved.”

Buildings participating in the competition vary in size and energy efficiency, and the Sustainability Office tries to account for these differences by ranking buildings based on their improvement in energy usage per person per square foot.

“We understand that some Houses are inherently more efficient than other houses, just based on their structure and their systems,” said Hanczor. “We compare the data between that year and the year before. We focus on that reduction percentage. It’s not a direct comparison between Helmreich and Baxter because they are different houses.”

Kahla Vise ’16, the Eco-Rep for Howell House, said that because Howell has an old, inefficient heating system, its residents cannot save an amount of energy that will translate into a large percentage reduction. Since winning the competition seemed out of the question, Vise motivated her housemates by offering to buy them gelato if they hit certain reduction goals.
Currently, there are 16 Eco-Reps on campus, and it is their job to raise awareness about sustainable habits. Eco-Reps often end up reminding other students about details and small changes they can make to save energy.

“When you are an Eco-Rep, you are trying to ask people who are already very busy to do other things they may not necessarily want to do, but are good for the environment,” said Vise.
Eco-Reps generally attempt to remind dorm and house members how they can reduce their usage.

“In our house every weekend, we have a house meeting where we go over a bunch of things that happened in the week,” said Andrew Cawley ’17, the Eco-Rep of MacMillan House, which earned second place in this year’s competition. “I just make the point to remind people that the energy competition is still going on. Remember to keep turning off the lights. Keep our showers to the minimum.”

In the winning dorms, residents made a conscious and collective effort to reduce their energy usage.

“When we were talking about it in the House, we just kind of got to the consensus that we are going to turn lights and TVs off if we are not using them,” said Jack Truskowski ’17, a resident of Helmreich House. “Everyone has done their part. Whenever I walk past people’s rooms, lights are always off.”

Payson noted that the reduction does not always stick. 

“Students are usually good at keeping the energy down after the competition through the end of the semester,” she said. “But I’ve seen when they come back from winter break, I don’t necessarily see the same decrease [in energy usage]. Part of it might be due to the weather. It’s usually colder in late January than December.”