Green Cup brings darkness, diligence to WU campuses

Talal Ahmad | Contributing Reporter

It’s not easy being green, but there are rewards for those who do make the commitment.

Junior Henry Ellison, president of Sigma Nu fraternity, which won last year’s Green Cup, said that house residents went to great lengths for their victory.

“The brotherhood was really passionate about saving power,” Ellison said. “We even went to the extreme of cutting the heat off the last couple days.”

But while many cut back on power usage for the month-long competition, Ellison doubts the competition’s potential for long-term change.

“I’m not sure if Green Cup has any long-term impact. It’s more about awareness,” Ellison said. “Although I would imagine there are significant savings for [the University] on power bills.”

Last year’s Green Cup, the annual energy-reducing competition co-programmed by Student Involvement and Leadership, Residential Life and the Office of Sustainability, was the first year to show an actual reduction in power usage in a majority of residential and fraternity houses since the competition’s inaugural year in 2010.

In addition to reducing energy usage, participants can gain additional points for the competition by creating sustainability awareness pieces in the form of videos and events.

Historically the prizes have been $500 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

“We’re not sure what the amounts will be at this point,” David Wallace, coordinator of Student Involvement and Leadership, said. “We have to look at the budget to see what the prizes will look like this year.”

This will be the second year that the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) participates in the event. Its Green Cup runs Feb. 24 to March 24, and the school hopes to reduce energy usage by at least 10 percent overall between the Farrell Learning & Teaching Center and Olin Residence Hall.

In addition, the school encourages medical students to take individual pledges about specific changes they can make to save energy. WUSM will compare first-year and second-year medical students, with the winner receiving a catered breakfast during the exam period at the end of March.

Senior Dennis Fong, a biomedical engineering student, noted some students go to the extreme to win the competition.

“I’ve heard of cases where lights are shut off when students need them most,” Fong said.

Director of Sustainability Phil Valko said that increased awareness is the primary goal of Green Cup.

“Green Cup engages Wash. U. students to be aware of their electricity usage and the impact that its production and consumption has on human health, climate change and ecosystems,” Valko said.

Senior Joan Steffen explained the importance of the Green Cup competition in light of the fact that much of St. Louis’ electricity comes from burning coal.

“Little things add up if we are all doing them together,” Steffen said. “I remember changing minor things like skipping using a hairdryer or turning down the heat.”

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