The invisible Green Cup

Most students are familiar with the efforts of Washington University to “go green” and make its practices more sustainable. Perhaps its biggest event to increase environmentally-friendly habits among Wash. U. students is the Green Cup. But the Green Cup will be facing a large detriment to its success this year—a noted lack of publicity. It’s unclear how many students even know it’s happening, which not only hurts the competition but also limits its larger goal of promoting greenness.

The Green Cup, which runs throughout February, is a competition organized by the Congress of the South 40 and the Office of Sustainability. The Green Cup champion is the residential college or fraternity house which reduces its energy use by the greatest percentage during the month. For each dorm or house to compete to the best of its ability, it seems that it would be necessary for accurate information to circulate about how the event will be scored, what practices count as reducing the previous month’s energy tally and when monitoring for the Green Cup will end.

Unfortunately, this information is not available. Flyers on the walls of freshman dorms advise them to take the stairs or to attach appliances to a power strip and unplug the power strip when they are not in use. Large posters on the first floor of each building are available for viewing the standings of the Green Cup. As of Wednesday, none of these posters had been updated yet, and the irony doesn’t seem lost that large amounts of paper advertising for an event geared toward a more sustainable student body hurts a marketing campaign.

The current Green Cup (and the future of the event) could benefit on multiple levels from a push toward electronic marketing. First, a successful advertising effort done online (or through some other medium) could provide a model for other student groups for how to make their advertising efforts more in-line with the sustainability initiative of the Green Cup. Additionally, an electronic effort to market Green Cup policies and recommendations could make them more readily available than flyers and posters that are likely to be ignored or torn down.

Luckily, the Green Cup would not need to start completely from scratch to improve awareness of its cause throughout campus. The website for the event, accessible at greencup.wustl.edu, contains excellent resources for Green Cup participants including tips on “How to Win,” the current standings for the event, outside resources for how to reduce energy use and all of the groups’ current advertising materials. Promoting this information in a way that is not completely dependent on flyers, residential advisors, College Councils and house managers could drastically improve participation in the Green Cup.

While there are many easy ways the Green Cup’s marketing could be improved and the movement expanded, the more problematic aspect of this shortcoming is that it shows something of a lack of commitment to real environmental changes on campus. If a contest that is essentially a temporary yearly change in the habits of dorm-dwellers can’t even be carried out successfully, what about wider efforts associated with environmental education?

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