On Monday, March 9th, Claremont McKenna was named this year’s winner for the annual PowerDown/Get Water Wise competition, earning the coveted Green Cup.
PowerDown is an annual Claremont initiative that lasts for three weeks and serves as both a consortium-wide and national contest. The five colleges compete in the Campus Conservation Nationals against over 200 universities across the nation that host programs similar to PowerDown.
At the 5Cs, students had the opportunity to track the performance of their dorm and college on the competition website, which shows the inter- and intra-college standings as decided by energy and water measurements taken on a weekly basis. Every year, the winning college receives the “Green Cup,” while the prize for the winning dorm varies from college to college.
This year, CMC came out victorious in the PowerDown challenge with a 6.9% overall reduction in energy consumption and water usage. Pitzer College held a close second, clocking in at a 6.4% reduction, followed by Pomona College’s 4% reduction, Scripps College’s 1.1% increase and Harvey Mudd’s 6.5% increase.
Within CMC, Benson Hall and Marks Hall tied for first place with a 13.8% reduction in energy and water consumption. Stark Hall clocked in at a 13.4% reduction, followed by Crown Hall’s 9.2% reduction.
PowerDown is hosted or sponsored by different organizations at the five colleges each year, with SSPEAR (Sustainable Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility) heading the effort at CMC. The group’s tireless efforts to publicize and promote participation in PowerDown contributed to CMC’s success in the competition this year.
Jessica Bass CMC ’17, the president of SSPEAR and the leader of most PowerDown events on campus, expressed her satisfaction with CMC’s turnout and participation this year.
“We are really proud of all of the residents who focused on finding ways in their everyday activities to help commit to saving energy. We had 240 CMC students who took our online pledge to reduce—that is about 20% of the student body!”
During PowerDown 2014, CMC came in fourth place among the 5C’s with a net increase of 0.3%. Bass commented, “Last year, the competition was held about a month later, and unfortunately, towards the end of the competition period, it became really warm outside, and air conditioning really set us back on our savings.”
This year, however, SSPEAR increased their efforts both before and during the competition. As a kickoff for PowerDown, SSPEAR hosted a “Dry Party” in South Quad on Sunday, Feb. 15th, encouraging residents to hang-dry their clean, wet laundry on clotheslines hung across the quad. SSPEAR provided food, music and clothespins for the overwhelmingly successful event.
Mira Liu CMC ’18, one of the two Eco-Reps for Fawcett Hall, also helped organize, facilitate, and garner participation in a few of the pre-PowerDown events to raise awareness for the competition, including Dry Party. Liu hosted a table in South Quad where residents wrote pledges for environmentally-conscious behavior on green paper leaves that she hung to form a tree of pledges in the Fawcett lobby.
“[The pledge tree] and Dry Party took place before PowerDown started, but their purpose was to raise awareness and make people brainstorm ideas for what they were going to do to save energy,” Liu said. “Another possible reason that people participated were the emails sent to the dorms with tips and reminders to save energy. Beckett Eco-Rep, Emily Wasserman, even made signs out of scratch paper and hung them around her dorm as reminders, too. It was also useful to have the data displayed in Collins, just like in Frary and the Hoch, which hopefully also informed people of the colleges’ progress if they didn’t check the website.”
During PowerDown, SSPEAR partnered with Collins Dining Hall and had an evening of “Raw Snack,” where no appliances were used to prepare the late night meal. Instead, students made their own “ants on a log” with peanut butter, raisins and celery. SSPEAR also invited student performers Kai Kellerman, Russell Salazar, and Teagan Stewart to provide live entertainment and encourage attendees to sign pledges.
Elaine Wang CMC ’18 appreciated the nature of the event and would like to see “Raw Snack” offered again in the future. She commented, “In my opinion, Raw Snack should become a more regular occurrence. It was a great environment; the darkness and acoustic performances added to the down-to-earth feel.”
When asked how she personally contributed to conserving energy during the challenge, Wang said, “I shut down the A/C in our room, turned off the shower when I washed my hair, waited to do laundry until I had a full load, and always used the stairs when possible.”
SSPEAR also provided incentives for saving energy. Fawcett received an ice cream party for signing the most number of pledges before the competition started, and Marks and Benson will soon receive a pizza party for their enormous efforts in reducing dorm-wide energy consumption.