The Collegian
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

UR takes on 40 other schools in energy reduction competition

The people behind the UR Energy Wars want students to know that reducing energy consumption is as easy as turning off the lights.

The three-week-long competition, from Nov. 1 through Nov. 19, has the residence halls on the University of Richmond campus competing against one another to have the biggest decrease in energy consumption, according to the university's sustainability website. In addition, the school is also competing against about 40 other schools in the Campus Conservation Nationals, said Megan Zanella-Litke, the university's sustainability coordinator.

If there is one thing she would impress upon students to do to save energy, Zanella-Litke said it would be turning off appliances, including lights and laptops, when they leave their rooms.

"It's just a waste of energy when you're not in there," she said. "I think it's a relatively easy one to fix, it doesn't cause you any pain."

Kaitlan Lawrence, the climate change group leader for GreenUR, which is co-sponsoring the wars with Zanella-Litke, had similar advice.

"Sometimes people think that energy reduction is this big hassle," Lawrence said, "and it's something that gets in the way of your life."

She said that it was really just being aware of your daily activities - if you leave the lights on when going to class, turn them off.

Vampire energy was another thing Zanella-Litke wanted students to be aware of. It's when an appliance such as a computer uses energy when it is in standby mode, she said, because it is still plugged into an outlet. She recommended using a power strip to cut off power when devices were not being used.

Energy consumption in the residence halls was tracked through an electrical energy monitoring system called Building Dashboard, Zanella-Litke said. A measuring device was attached to the meter in each of the residence halls, she said, and the energy consumption was wirelessly transmitted to the Dashboard.

The University Forest Apartments are not in the competition because each apartment is metered individually, Zanella-Litke said, so there was no one location to place a Dashboard tracking device.

The progress of each of the residence halls in the competition can be viewed on the Dashboard's website; currently, Dennis Hall is winning, with Lakeview Hall and Marsh Hall in second and third places, respectively. Also on the website is a list of energy-saving ideas, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and washing clothes in cold water, which students can commit to through a Facebook application.

Zanella-Litke said that the commitments were a way to get students to learn what they could do to lower their energy usage. Also, she said she had been using Twitter and Facebook updates to give daily tips on lowering energy consumption.

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After the competition ends, Zanella-Litke said she wanted to see energy consumption on campus continue to fall, and that she planned to do so by using Facebook and other online resources through the newly revamped sustainability website.

"I really want early next year to have focus groups with students to figure out ways that will best reach them and how they want to be involved and how they feel they can make a meaningful contribution through this," she said.

Lawrence said she thought that Richmond students would be able to significantly decrease energy consumption.

"I definitely have faith in the students' ability to take little steps," Lawrence said, "and definitely the more they know about it, the more they're going to be aware of what they're doing."

Zanella-Litke said she had heard of a lot of talk surrounding the Energy Wars, which to her signaled success, because it meant awareness was being raised about energy issues.

Winning either the national or the on-campus competition comes with rewards. In the Campus Conservation Nationals, the winning school gets an expansion of their Dashboard system, Zanella-Litke said. For the UR Energy Wars, she said, the winning residence hall would get $500 for programming in its building, second place would receive $300 and third place $200.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Hyman at

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