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Buildings Go for Green

by: Jessica Wen    4 October 2006

As global warming cuts into the ice cap near the North Pole, the Green Campus Initiative is urging students and staffers to cut energy usage in the North Yard.

The initiative last month kicked off the first season of an annual energy competition in conjunction with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Office of Physical Resources.

Over the next six months, the Initiative will be keeping track of the energy consumption of 11 different buildings, including some of the biggest energy guzzlers on campus, like the Science Center and the Sherman Fairchild Biochemistry Lab.

Each month of the competition will focus on a different aspect of energy conservation, such as turning off computers, closing blinds, and lowering thermostats. The contest will end on Earth Day, March 20, and the initiative will bestow its highest honors on the building with the largest percentage decrease in monthly energy consumption. A technical upgrade in an energy conservation feature is the top prize.

"We wanted to reengage and recharge the community when it comes to reducing energy consumption," said Gosia E. Sklodowska, coordinator of the new competition.

Sklodowska said that she hopes that through the contest, staff and students who use the buildings will band together for a common environmental cause.

Through information posted on office websites and posters distributed to different buildings, occupants are encouraged to take simple actions in order to reduce resource consumption, like turning off lights and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

According to Sklodowska, an energy consumption drop of 1 percent decreases total carbon dioxide emissions by 50,000 lbs., the equivalent of taking 50 cars off the road for a year. "Very small actions add up in a community of thousands of people," she said. "Even if we decrease consumption by 1, or 2, or 3 percent, it's already making a huge difference."

Psychology Department administrative staffer Celeste M. Beck, who is William James Hall's building representative to the Green Campus Initiative, said she is trying to raise awareness of the competition.

"It's a challenge to change behavior, but it does make a difference," she said.

"People think of Harvard as a leader of being green. It's part of who we are to be energy conscious," she added.

Other buildings participating in the competition include the Littauer Center, Jefferson Hall, Pierce Hall, Lyman Laboratory, Hoffman Laboratory, Naito Laboratories, and both wings of the Center for Governmental and International Studies.