5Cs Crank Up Competition on PowerDown

A laundry rack with clothes hung out to dry.
(Sarah Grazel-Ward • The Student Life)

There are only a couple days left of the annual PowerDown competition, the three-week period during which the 5Cs battle to reduce their energy usage. Residence halls within colleges also compete to see who can decrease energy usage the most. 

Last year’s winner was Claremont McKenna College, which reduced energy usage by 6.8 percent. Pitzer College was a close second with a reduction of 6.4 percent, Pomona College was in third with 3.9 percent, and Scripps College in fourth with 3.8 percent. Harvey Mudd College had no data. 

At Pomona, the EcoReps have also been hard at work to make PowerDown a success this year. 

“As the main liaisons between the student body and the Sustainability Integration Office, the Pomona EcoReps have headed efforts at Pomona to get the word out about the competition and encourage students to use less energy,” EcoRep Chloe An PO ’18 wrote in an email to TSL.

An wrote that the EcoReps “tabled in the dining halls encouraging students to sign the pledge the first week of the competition and are planning a few events to highlight PowerDown.” The EcoReps planned the glow-in-the-dark volleyball kick-off event on Feb. 16, and they are also gearing up for a silent disco at the Coop Fountain on March 10.

Behind the scenes are many people working hard to spread awareness about the PowerDown Challenge and get students involved. Pitzer’s sustainability manager, Warren Biggins, wrote in an email to TSL that he and a colleague regularly held planning meetings with 5C representatives, “during which [they] work to ensure that all the contest data is being tracked and recorded correctly, plan events, and develop outreach communications.” 

Data for the challenge is gathered from monitors that are placed on buildings throughout the 5C campuses. The program collects the data and measures the energy usage before the competition begins to serve as the baseline to determine the change in energy consumption. 

Biggins noted the positive efforts Pitzer has been making this year, writing that while their “total electricity use has increased, efficiency has increased significantly and can be mostly attributed to Pitzer’s investment in LEED Gold and Platinum certified residence halls.” 

The college that decreases their energy usage by the largest margin wins a trophy and $250 for the use of the college’s sustainability office. However, the biggest goal of the competition is to raise awareness about energy consumption. 

When asked to reflect on Pomona’s energy consumption as a whole, An wrote, “I think in general, Pomona students and the college already do a lot about sustainability, but there’s a lot of things we can improve on, especially in the day-to-day things we do.” 

“The easiest thing to do that’s definitely one of the biggest energy suckers is unplugging things,” EcoRep Alex Seidel PO ’18 said.

According to Seidel, “phantom energy,” the electricity used when appliances are left plugged in even when not in use, can take up to “10 percent of your energy bill” in an average home.

“Turn off your power strip. I think it’s something that you can just get in a habit of when you leave your room, flick off that strip,” she said.

An wrote that reducing energy consumption is all about the little things.

“It might seem trivial or like common knowledge, but the small act of turning off the lights when you leave a common bathroom or unplugging appliances when you’re not using them can really add up,” she wrote.

PowerDown ends on March 7 when the winners will be announced. For more information and to take the PowerDown pledge, students can head to the “Claremont Colleges PowerDown 2016” Facebook page.

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