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Saving the Planet One Dorm at a Time

by: Colin Steele    3 February 2007

Prep School Students Compete to Save Energy

ANDOVER - Don't kill polar bears. Take the stairs.

The message, found on fliers next to elevators across the Phillips Academy campus, is part of the school's new push to save electricity and reduce global warming. Phillips is one of 15 prep schools in the Northeast competing in the Green Cup Challenge, a four-week contest to see which school can cut its energy consumption the most.

"Global warming is really important," said senior Wesley Hartwell, 17. "Energy efficiency is one of the best and easiest ways to solve the problem."

Hartwell and other student organizers are playing up the competition angle, especially with archrival Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire, to get their classmates excited about not using the elevators, turning off their computers at night and taking other steps to save energy. And they're hoping their fliers, which feature swimming polar bear pups barely keeping their heads above water, will have an effect, too.

"It's hard, because a lot of kids don't care," said senior Ben Bramhall, 17. "We go for the emotional effect."

The competition began Jan. 23, and Phillips Andover has already seen electricity usage drop, said Becky Bogdanovitch, the school's sustainability coordinator and an environmental science teacher. Students are asking their teachers to turn off classroom lights and open the shades instead, and they are unplugging their stereos and cell phone chargers when not using them in their dorm rooms.

"It's really dramatic, the difference that can be made," Bogdanovitch said. "Even if a stereo is off, it's still sucking energy."

Phillips Exeter started the Green Cup Challenge in 2003 as a competition between students in its dorms.

Last year, the contest expanded to include Northfield-Mount Hermon School in Western Massachusetts and the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. The three schools cut their energy consumption by 10 percent and kept 394,000 pounds of carbon dioxide - a main cause of global warming - out of the atmosphere.

Students at the 15 schools competing this year will receive weekly standings updates to track their progress. At Phillips Andover, students can also see how much energy they're using in any given building at any given time, thanks to a large display monitor set up in the Gelb Science Center.

The winning school will receive a trophy and $2,750, and the teacher who most creatively incorporates the Green Cup Challenge into his or her class will also win an award.

10 Ways to Help Stop Global Warming

Change a light: Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Drive less: You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive.

Recycle more: You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide every year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check your tires: Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Use less hot water: Installing a low-flow shower head saves 350 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and washing your clothes in cold or warm water saves 500 pounds a year.

Avoid products with a lot of packaging: You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down on your garbage by 10 percent.

Adjust your thermostat: Moving your thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Plant a tree: A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

Turn off electronic devices: Turning off your television, DVD player, stereo and computer when you're not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.