Confusion Over PowerDown Results Leave Pitzer, HMC in the Balance

Although results from the 5C “PowerDown, Get WaterWise” competition showed Harvey Mudd College with the most reported energy savings, Pitzer College may emerge victorious following HMC’s disqualification from the competition. 

During the competition, which began March 26 and lasted three weeks, HMC apparently reduced energy savings by 6.3 percent compared to energy use in the same three weeks in 2013. However, HMC was disqualified from the competition, according to Olivia Schneble HM ’17, the competition organizer for HMC and a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World/Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions (ESW/MOSS). 

“We had too many dubious readings (for example, one dorm’s electricity use reduced by about 70% and another’s increased by about that much),” she wrote.

Jake Dittes HM ’15, ESW/MOSS co-president, wrote in an email to TSL that the final results will be verified this weekend when the award is presented at the Kohoutek Music & Arts Festival at Pitzer. 

“Likely Pitzer will be the winner, but
it is not yet settled,” he wrote. 

According
to Pitzer Sustainability Coordinator Jesse
Meisler-Abramson PZ ’11, 140 Pitzer students pledged to participate in the PowerDown, many more than in previous years.

“I am thrilled that we were able to reduce our energy load in the dorms of
3 weeks by 4.7%. It shows how a little behavior change goes a long way,” Meisler-Abramson wrote in an email to TSL. “The
hope is that this behavior change doesn’t end with the end of the competition.”

Energy use at Scripps College decreased by 2 percent, and Pomona College saw a 1.4 percent reduction, according to data on the Building Dashboard website. Energy use at Claremont McKenna College increased by 0.3 percent. 

Ginny Routhe, director of the Sustainability Integration Office at Pomona, said that students were enthusiastic about the competition. 

“In talking
to students, it’s really fun to hear that
they really got into it, especially in the last few days when they realized
they were winning,” she said. “They were doing things, like their lights weren’t turning off in the hallways, but they would all shut off their lights
in their rooms and everyone would come in the hallway to study cause the lights
were on there, encouraging one another to pull off till midnight when
competition was done, waiting to shower till it’s over, you know, that sort of thing.”

As part of the competition, an event called “Dining in the Dark” was held April 14, when the lights in McConnell Dining Hall at Pitzer were turned off all
day to reduce electricity usage.

“I think that learning to live on less is the direction we must be moving
in,” Meisler-Abramson wrote. “Most of the time I work in my office
with my lights off. I am not saying that we
shouldn’t use electricity or lights, but we must be conscious of when we
actually need them.”

Leah Pomerantz PZ ’15 supported the idea of turning lights off during the day, 

“I think the school should do it more often,” she said. “I mean, we have plenty of
sunlight [at lunch].”

Lala Darling PZ ’14 voiced her concern that, in order to make room for new buildings set to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, Pitzer will be taking over part of the Outback Preserve. 

“I think people study more about how to take care of the environment on a
greater scale, but I think Pitzer could do much better in actually being a
greener campus,” she said. 

The Building Dashboard website shows that the five colleges saved 17,364 kilowatt-hours, totaling 10,956 pounds of carbon dioxide, or $2,197, during the competition. The PowerDown competition is part of Campus Conservation Nationals, in which colleges across the country compete to reduce their water and energy consumption.

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