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Campus focuses on conservation

By : Rachel Coker

Mohawk Hall resident Connie Valenzuela makes an effort to conserve energy in her room.
Rising energy prices have given a new focus and urgency to conservation efforts large and small throughout campus.

A contest that began Monday pits Binghamton’s residential communities against one another to see which group of students can save the most energy. Physical Facilities will invest $800,000 this academic year alone on projects to improve energy efficiency. And a new committee will begin meeting soon to consider other campus-wide initiatives.

“The University is very committed to conservation,” President Lois B. DeFleur said Monday during an event that kicked off the conservation contest.

The five-week competition will focus on differences in each community’s electricity use compared to its use during the same period a year ago.

The winner at the halfway point will be treated to a concert featuring Jared Campbell. The community that wins the overall contest will receive special entertainment equipment.

DeFleur noted the University’s energy bill for a single day now tops $14,000 and that creative conservation efforts are key to keeping those costs in check.

Kirk McLean, project coordinator for New York Public Interest Research Group, came up with the idea for the contest. He hopes it will become an annual event at Binghamton and serve as a model for other college campuses.

“We must do all we can to curb energy waste,” he said.

McLean cited data from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that shows $3 is saved for every $1 invested in energy efficiency.

“The reason we’re doing this is to educate students,” he added. The content fits NYPIRG’s dual missions of building student empowerment and improving the environment.

David Belsky, executive vice president of the Student Association, said the SA will do all it can to promote the contest through community governments. “It’s a great cause,” he said. “I think the students are going to be excited about it.”

Belsky said he’s already begun turning off his computer and printer when he’s not using them, which he never did before. “It’s so easy for students to participate in this,” he said.

Senior mechanical engineering major Maureen Gundlach will keep track of the statistics to determine which community wins. She volunteered for the independent study project because it will allow her to work on data analysis and help the environment.

“I don’t think we need to use as much energy as we do,” she said. “We could leave a smaller footprint and be just as happy.”

Because this is the first time the contest is being held, organizers aren’t sure what to expect in terms of total energy savings. After it ends March 10, students will have a clearer picture about what kind of impact they can have on conservation.

James Van Voorst, vice president for administration, said he’s excited about the competition because good habits students develop now may last far longer than the contest and benefit the students, the campus and the environment. It will surely build awareness on campus, which is a good first step in conservation, he said.

“If they change something that’s wasteful, we’ve benefited on a number of levels,” said Van Voorst, who hopes this partnership will set the stage for future work involving NYPIRG and the campus.

Van Voorst emphasized that experienced, committed staff members in Physical Facilities work hard to contain campus energy use. From vehicle and computer purchases to renovated buildings and new construction, Binghamton makes energy efficiency a priority, he said.

“There isn’t much we can do about rates,” he said, “but we do an excellent job on usage.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08