Dorms compete to reduce energy consumption for Do it in the Dark

From Feb. 23 to Feb. 27, the Williams Environmental Council (WEC) is holding Do it in the Dark, a week-long event in which dorms compete to reduce their energy usages by the greatest amounts.

WEC also organized events that limit energy usage this week, including candlelit yoga on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Currier Ballroom and a bonfire on Friday at Poker Flats. WEC is hosting Stressbusters on Wednesday as well.

WEC compares how much energy each dorm building uses during this week to each building’s average weekly energy usage over the past couple of years. The building with the largest percent reduction will win the competition. The prize is a “puppy party,” in which the residents of the dorm can play with a number of professors’ dogs at a given time. The buildings are split into two categories, large and small; one winner will be chosen from each category. The Zilkha Center will track the energy usage statistics using a program developed by Director Amy Johns.

As of Tuesday, Woodbridge leads the small building category, while Sage holds the large building category lead.

One of the goals of Do it in the Dark is to reduce the College’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Since the College receives most of its energy from burning natural gases, reducing energy usage decreases greenhouse gas emissions. The Campus Environmental Advisory Committee recommends that the College lower its emissions, and WEC is working to raise awareness about this goal.

WEC created a petition that urges the College to adopt a new emissions target of 80 percent reduction of 1990 emission levels by 2050. Alice Stears ’15, former co-president of WEC, believes that in addition to working towards institutional changes, students need to show personal initiative with regards to cutting back on emissions.

“Personal change in behavior can certainly go a long way in reducing energy use, but we are never going to be able to fully address the threat of climate change by only turning off lights. There are many dirty energy-intensive things that we as students and consumers are not able to directly control. That is why it is so important that we pressure the administration to make smart energy decisions on our behalf and to adopt an institutional policy that commits the College to the most sustainable practices possible,” Stears said.

Stears also hopes that students will be mindful of the consequences of their actions during the rest of the school year, even though this competition is only a weeklong event.

“I hope that what people learn or experience will carry over into their daily lives. I think it is a great opportunity for people to be engaged,” Stears said.

The first Do it in the Dark at the College was held in fall 2005 as a month-long competition each semester. The competition has not been held since April 2012.

“I’m excited that we are resurrecting it. I hope this year’s competition is successful and that we keep doing it, as there has been a two-year break,” Stears said.

In March 2010, during the week of Do it in the Dark, the College used 16,760.9 kW-hours less than its energy use baseline for a week, a 19.6 percent reduction in energy usage.

Other colleges, including Princeton, Haverford, Tufts, Brown and Wesleyan have also hosted their own Do it in the Dark competitions for a variety of different timespans.