Each November for the past eight years, students at the College have participated in Winter Blitz, volunteering to weatherize homes in the surrounding community. This year, the event expanded for the first time to include student housing. Last Saturday, the College’s rugby teams, in partnership with the Zilkha Center, weatherized on-campus rooms and offices.
The event was organized in part by Roshny Vijayakar ’17, who first thought of holding an on-campus Winter Blitz two years ago, when she served as an eco-advisor. Given the goals of the eco-advisors, a student committee that aimed to reduce the College’s environmental impact through the implementation of new policies, extending Winter Blitz to on-campus housing “seemed like a no brainer,” Vijayakar said.
“We do this great weatherization work off-campus every year and people love it; why not fix up some of the old dorms and buildings on campus as a way to increase energy efficiency?”
Vijayakar added that many students have lamented the draftiness of the doors and windows of their on-campus dorm rooms, and the light bulbs and faucets are fairly environmentally inefficient as well.
Sharai Dottin ’18 has faced such problems in her Tyler Annex room. “My room is often really cold,” she said. “I sleep near my window and always feel a draft.” By expanding Winter Blitz to the College, Vijayakar and her fellow organizers hoped to ameliorate these issues.
“We wanted it to be just like regular Winter Blitz, in that students volunteered to do everything,” Vijayakar said. “We even gauged campus interest in a survey … that we eco-advisors administered that spring .”
However, it took two years for the event to actually come to fruition. When Mike Evans joined the Zilkha Center as Assistant Director, he and Vijayakar began to discuss logistics of an on-campus Winter Blitz.
“We talked about it starting small, so both volunteer weatherizers and those having rooms weatherized weren’t the general student population right from the get-go,” she said.
The volunteer weatherizers ended up being the members of the College’s rugby teams.
“We felt like we needed more campus visibility to be more accessible to potentially interested players,” Vijayakar said, who is herself a women’s rugby player, “and to maybe help remove any lingering ‘rugby is a cult’ stigma that may be preventing people from trying rugby for the awesome sport that it is.”
Vijayakar and other members of the women’s rugby team also hoped to encourage increased team volunteering and participation in community service.
After the rugby teams were established as a mobilized volunteer force, Gabby Carmona ’18, student coordinator of the event, communicated with Evans, Facilities and the Winter Blitz committee to formulate the details. With the help of Allison Rowe ’16 and Carol Almonte ’19, the group gathered supplies and underwent training to prepare for the first on-campus Winter Blitz.
On the day of the event, about 30 volunteers worked to weatherize approximately 30 living spaces.
“The first campus Winter Blitz was executed not perfectly,” said Vajayakar, “but in a controlled enough manner.”
Dottin also deemed the event successful. “It was incredibly kind and generous of the women’s rugby team to volunteer their time to weatherize student rooms on campus,” she said, “but it definitely isn’t their responsibility.”
Like Dottin, many students believe that Facilities should have been held accountable for weatherizing on-campus housing. However, Vijayakar noted a silver lining to the fact that the weatherizing of on-campus living spaces was student-run.
“If Facilities just did it,” she said, “then it might get the job done, but it wouldn’t allow for exposure of any student concern over energy wasted here or responsibility for the spaces we inhabit.”
Carmona hopes that on-campus Winter Blitz will become an annual event.
“In general,” she said, “with the Zilkha Center, we are working to expand Winter Blitz into more than just one yearly event. We started with expanding to campus outreach, and are also working on furthering our community outreach.”
Through annual events like Winter Blitz – on-campus and off – we can continue to increase awareness of environmental issues and spark action from the student body, the College and the greater community.