This semester, the Office of Sustainability is recharging its annual Energy Competition and renewing initiatives to make campus even "greener."
Beginning Feb. 4, the Office will sponsor "Mega-Watt Madness," a three-week energy conservation competition that will pit dorms against each other in three separate events, education and outreach program manager Rachel Novick said.
"This competition has better odds, because each week is a new chance to win," she said. "At the end of the three weeks, the dorms get to choose the prizes based on how many times they've won."
Myles Robertson, intern and program coordinator in the Office, said the Office also altered the structure of this competition from previous contests to accommodate each dorm's unique characteristics.
"Each dorm will be matched up with a dorm similar to themselves, such as being built around the same time, and having similar heating or cooling systems," Robertson said. "This reshaping of the competition also means that dorms who get behind will not get discouraged and that people will be more inclined to participate."
Linda Kurtos, director of sustainability, said the Office will jump-start RecycleMania on Feb. 3, joining a national movement toward campus sustainability.
"RecycleMania is a competition where colleges and universities around the country compete to recycle the most and to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills," Kurtos said.
The Office will also continue programs that have been successful in the past, such as the Green Discovery program, which Kurtos said strives to make labs on campus greener and is "going really well."
"We are currently working with 49 percent of the labs in the College of Science, and we are just starting with the College of Engineering," she said.
Kurtos said the Office of Sustainability uses a Green Loan Fund to make the initial payments for newer and more efficient equipment. As a lab saves money due to reductions in energy use, it pays the loan back, she said.
Novick said the Office hopes to continue this program and impact all labs at the University.
"We do audits in the labs almost every week, and we are hoping to reach all of the labs on campus," she said. "We will probably have reached all of them in another year."
The Office also utilizes "Green Commissioners," which are students who help raise sustainability awareness in their respective dorms, Robertson said.
"These commissioners meet monthly to talk about upcoming events, and provide feedback on our programs around campus, which is why we are reshaping the dorm energy competition this semester," he said.
Kurtos said the Office is continually finding different ways to reduce waste and increase awareness of its programs.
"Our goal is to see which of our continuing processes are working the best for us and to look for some new ideas on how to get where we should be going," she said. "We keep trying to find ways to keep people interested in sustainability."
Robertson said campus-wide participation and enthusiasm are key to making the campus more sustainable and encouraged students to share their ideas with the Office.
"Participate and bring ideas. We are always open to how you see sustainability at the University," he said. "More than anything, keep the hype up."