CMC Powers Down to Win 5C Challenge

Claremont McKenna College emerged as the unexpected victor in the 4th annual 5C PowerDown Challenge, a race to decrease energy and water usage in students’ daily lives. The competition, which takes place over the course of three weeks, is part of Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN), the largest electricity and water reduction competition on college and university campuses across America.

At the conclusion of the PowerDown Challenge, CMC led with a 6.8 percent total energy reduction, followed by Pitzer College with 6.4 percent, Pomona College with 3.9 percent and Scripps College with 3.8 percent. Harvey Mudd College's reduction data was not listed. 

This year marks not only CMC’s first win, but its first year finishing the competition with an actual campus-wide decrease in energy use. This effort to increase energy reduction was led in large part by CMC's environmental club, Sustainable Students Promoting Environmental Action & Responsibility (SSPEAR). Despite their work, the victory still came as a pleasant surprise for SSPEAR President Jessica Bass CM ‘17.

“My expectation was definitely that we would have a reduction,” Bass said. “I didn’t know how we would fare compared to the other colleges because everybody puts in a lot of effort, so it’s hard to put in the amount that puts you at the top. I was really proud of how we did.”

Benson Hall and Marks Hall, two CMC residence halls that share an energy measurement apparatus, achieved the greatest energy decrease of all residence halls with a 13.7 percent total reduction, according to CMC's Building Dashboard webpage. Stark Hall followed with a 13.2 percent total reduction, and Crown Hall, Auen Hall, Fawcett Hall and Boswell Hall also decreased their usage.

Weronika Konwent CM '17, a Benson resident and member of SSPEAR, made an effort to share suggestions and encouragement with other residents in her dorm. She believes this may have made Benson residents especially aware of the goals of the competition. 

“I hounded people a lot about lights," she said. "Everything in Benson and Marx is automated, we put several posters up and everyone knew that the competition was going on."

Bass echoed these sentiments and noticed that the presence of eco-reps in the CMC residence halls has helped to promote these behaviors.   

“The difference this year was having eco-reps, who supported the program and really brought it into the dorms and told everybody about it and told dorm residents how they could make a difference.”

According to Bass, a number of other factors also helped CMC win the competition, including hosting outreach events, posting graphs in the dining halls and urging engagement through turning off the lights during nightly snack. 

Such efforts gave CMC an extra edge, making the residence halls' progress especially notable for Austin Gosch CM ’18, who served as CMC's data recorder throughout the competition.

“Most of the dorms went down some, so that was great too," Gosch said. "Stark went down quite a bit, Crown decreased, but most of them stayed about the same. The biggest surprise was really Benson and Marks, but I’m surprised that we actually beat Pitzer—I think the competition went really well.”

Moving forward from the win, Konwent maintained that more needs to be done to focus the campus community on decreasing energy and water usage on a daily basis.

“It wasn’t as easy as it could have been,” Konwent said. “It’s hard to motivate people because people think that the little things don’t really count. That’s the biggest idea we need to get across: They do count. I think [all of us] can make a difference in a small way."