By Miles Harrison
Have you walked through the hallways recently and wondered why the formerly brightly-lit spaces have been so dark? No, it’s not just the doldrums of the deep winter freeze. The absence of light in hallways, classrooms, and the Commons marked the return of the Green Cup Energy Challenge, a month-long commitment to reduce energy consumption.
BB&N is just one of over a hundred nationwide schools that pledged to decrease energy usage over the duration of the competition, which began on January 16 and concluded on February 13.
Organized by the Environmental Club, the Green Cup Challenge is designed to raise awareness about the environment and to promote sustainable practices on campus. The Environmental Club spearheaded a variety of initiatives to reduce energy usage, including Twilight Tuesdays, bulletins urging students to turn unused lights off, and the Trashion Show.
Despite the club’s efforts, the results of the challenge revealed that BB&N’s energy usage increased by 10.3%.
Environmental Club Advisor Meena Kaur said, “It’s strange because everybody was working really hard to turn out the lights. It’s the fifth year we’ve done it [the challenge], and it’s the most student participation we’ve ever seen.”
“Turning off lights was our primary focus during the challenge. We posted signs next to all of the light switches, suggesting that passing students and teachers turn off the lights if they feel that they don’t need to be on. My favorite activity during the challenge was using the chalkboard outside of the library to reach out to the student body,” said Environmental Club Co-President Peter Woolverton ’13. “Although we didn’t reach our goals, I think that students viewed the challenge in a more positive light. The use of the chalkboard helped with that, as did several emails to What’s Happenin’ from the club detailing our progress in the challenge.”
Every week, the Environmental Club reported the amount of energy usage at BB&N to the Green Schools Alliance, which is the national committee that oversees the Green Cup Energy Challenge. The data was then compared to energy usage of equivalent weeks in a previous baseline from the past three years to calculate the percentage of energy reduction or increase. According to the official data, energy usage in the baseline year averaged 18,000 kilowatts per week. This year, BB&N posted results of over 20,000 kilowatts per week for the first three weeks, before dropping to 17,000 kilowatts for the final week of the challenge.
Ms. Kaur explained, “It’s not even a huge increase kilowatt-wise, but clearly everything counts.”
During the challenge, BB&N competed against 10 other schools categorized by the Green School Alliance as the Northeast Day School division. With a 10.3% increase, BB&N placed ninth in the division. 7 out of the 11 schools posted a decrease in energy usage, led by Belmont Hill School, which reported a 22.1% reduction.
Since the conclusion of the competition, the Environmental Club has tried to reason why the energy usage at BB&N increased despite strong student involvement.
Club member Cindy Yang ’14 said, “It seems like the main cause for the increase is from heating, since we had some really cold days during the challenge.”
“First off, the school did much better turning the lights off,” Environmental Club member Ella Driscoll ’13 said. “We’re already a very environmentally conscious school, so to get better is tough. This year was the best attitude of students by far.” She also acknowledged that there are many variables in the energy saving process that were out of the students’ and faculty’s control. The outdoor temperature, overall heating usage, and the design of the school building are all factors that are realistically beyond the jurisdiction of the faculty and students. According to Ms. Kaur, the single-paned windows in the older wing of the school building are some of the biggest sources of energy depletion in the school.
“There are tons of things our school can work on as a whole to become more sustainable,” Ella said, citing wearing layers as a way to feel more comfortable at school instead of opening windows or turning up thermostats.
The Environmental Club is still trying to reschedule the Trashion Show, the fourth annual fashion show featuring recycled outfits, which was postponed due to a snow day.
The Trashion Show is an important component of the Green Cup Challenge, Cindy explained: “It raises awareness so people can see what you can recycle in creative ways.”
Environmental Club Advisor John Norton said, “The Green Cup Challenge is an internal challenge. It’s a great way to measure sustainability and see how we can improve as a community.”