The University’s annual energy-saving competition, Do It In the Dark, began on Oct. 12, integrating the JouleBug app to allow students to track their energy saving progress. Unlike in previous years, all students will be able to participate, rather than just the residents of woodframe and program houses. The competition will run through Nov. 25.
Sustainability intern Molly Steinfeld ’15 hopes that this year’s competition will spark real conversation regarding energy usage.
“I think it is easy to talk about energy usage, but we hope that this event encourages people to take individual action to help out,” Steinfeld wrote in an email to The Argus.
All of the money saved through reduced energy usage will go toward financial aid.
“A lot of people on this campus feel personal connections to this cause, and I think it is great that we can all make small changes to help one another out,” Steinfeld wrote. “It was really gratifying to see people’s enthusiasm when I would talk about the competition and the benefits for financial aid.”
Last fall, the Office of Sustainability hosted a competition using JouleBug in which 24 teams of students competed for prizes by “buzzing” sustainable activities and earning points. The app will now be an integral part of Do It In the Dark and can be downloaded onto a computer or a smartphone from the Apple app store or the Android store. Sustainability Intern Michael Ortiz ’17 explained the benefits of adding the JouleBug app to the campus-wide competition, noting its ability to predict energy-related statistics.
“JouleBug gives the power to the people,” Ortiz said. “It allows them to do these sustainable actions and then buzz on the app and give themselves points and we can track those points. We can use those points to see which dorm, supposedly, is saving the most energy, and then at the end of the winter we can check the bill and see if it corroborates with the information we have.”
The app has sorted the campus into two teams: one includes the dorms, HiRise, LoRise, and program houses, while the other includes woodframe houses and the Fauver apartments.
“If you’re a senior and you already know what causes you’re most worried about, it’s harder to do things than it would be for a freshman [who is] probably more impressionable,” Ortiz said. “We can’t really get the seniors to change, and they’re leaving, but the freshmen and sophomores, they’re going to be here for three years, four years. So if we get them using water bottles and turning off their lights every time they leave, I feel like that would be a bigger change and it would have a bigger effect on sustainability on campus.”
The competition will utilize the Sustainability Office’s Eco Facilitators, students who are specially trained to promote sustainable practices to the freshmen in assigned dorms. Eco Facilitator Cassia Patel ’17 explained the different steps students can take to reduce energy usage.
“The advice I give out includes basic steps like turning off the lights when not in the room as well as techniques not everyone is aware of, such as unplugging chargers when not in use (which wastes energy because of the resistance in the wire), and helping friends and peers learn how to use the outlet boards with switches that can be shut off when not in use,” Patel wrote in an email to The Argus.
The first phase of the competition is focused on educating students about laptop energy emissions, represented by the “Quittin’ Time” pin on the JouleBug app. There will be a different challenge every two weeks; at the end of the contest, the group that is in the lead will receive a reward.
“We wanted to focus it more to keep people more interested and make sure nobody fell off and keep it fresh and new,” Ortiz said. “So JouleBug helps with the focusing. It’s keeping people [saying], ‘Oh it’s not the same thing over and over.’ It changes from time to time.”
The final prize of the competition—distinct from the reward for leading on JouleBug—is based on the percent decrease in Wesleyan’s utility bill. The University will receive this bill in the winter. Last year, The Bayit won the Do It In the Dark competition based on its utility bill. Current Bayit House Manager Ian Rice ’17 said that the house hopes to repeat its win.
“We are hoping that putting a compost bin in the house will encourage residents to compost more, and just generally making sure that we are conscious of when the lights are on and trying to do small things like taking shorter showers,” Rice said. “As a program house, we feel that the best way to make a change in the world is by making a difference as a group and keeping each other accountable. The effect of one person may be small, but together we can start a larger change.”
Ortiz emphasized that the contest is designed to help students foster environmentally friendly habits.
“We hope to train people that after a while you don’t even buzz yourself for the points,” Ortiz said. “It becomes part of your daily routine.”