Baker holds energy saving competition

Gillian Klein, Staff Writer

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The Center for Sustainable Communities organized an energy reduction competition between residents of Baker Village from March 12 to 17. A total of 18 units participated.

Energy advocate co-chair for the Center of Sustainable Energy Nathan Campbell (‘18) analyzed the results of the competition through comparing energy usage.

“We compared energy consumption from a week in February to the week of March 12 to 17,” Campbell said. “Over this last week, the village used 20 percent less energy. Out of all the houses, Trondheim six reduced their energy usage the most, by 57 percent.”

The Center for Sustainable Communities’ preparation for the energy competition began during the fall semester of the 2016-17 academic year.

Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities Maren Beard (‘08) shared why this project aligned with Luther’s environmental issues.

“Years ago, Luther set a 2 percent per year reduction rate in energy usage,” Beard said. “Our theory is that, through this project, we are giving students access to energy information specific to their usage and connecting students to their energy intake.”

In order for students to access their energy information the Sustainable Council recruited a web developer to create a mobile-friendly website later launched as “Baker Village Appening” in mid-February.

In early February, sustainable educators — part of the Sustainable Council — ran a secret competition about phantom energy usage. Phantom energy is the energy that is consumed by devices not in operation but still plugged. The competition compared reduction in phantom loads per unit since the release of the website. The data from this week was used as a comparison to the competition week in March.

Phantom loads, according to Oslo resident Liam Fraser (‘18), were one of the easiest ways to reduce energy consumption.

“A phantom load is the energy you are using when you aren’t charging or powering anything,” Fraser said. “Just unplug anything you are not using, like phone chargers or toasters, and that constant flow of electricity ceases.”

Students and faculty collaborated throughout the duration of the project. One of the contributing collaborators was Assistant Hall Director of Baker Village Emily Dirks (‘18). Dirks highlighted the crucial role that collaboration between residence life, Baker Village, and the Sustainability Council had on the project.

“The Sustainability Council first came to me with the proposal about Baker Village,” Dirks stated. “Immediately, I made flyers for each house to showcase the competition. Sustainability implemented the app and it ran smoothly because of that.”

The success of the project was not only due to the coordination between multiple Luther members but between the students residing in Baker Village. Housemates collaborated with each other to brainstorm and execute various energy conservation strategies.

According to Fraser, the possibilities for conservation were endless.

“It all began with awareness of the energy we use when we aren’t using our appliances or electronics,” Fraser said. “We unplugged everything. Then we progressed to decreasing our thermostat temperature to 60 degrees and even did our homework together with candlelight.”

For students like Luke Lumbar (‘18), the competition provoked questions about energy usage he had never asked.

“Recognizing when you use energy should not be as hard as it is,” Lumbar said. “The experience of focusing on what I was using for energy helped me begin questioning if what I was using needed to be used.”

As the second half of the semester begins, the Sustainability Council anticipates there will be another energy challenge similar to this one in Baker village.

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