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Residential Hill’s energy-saving competition, Do it in the Dark, prompts students to decrease consumption

By Sean Greene

Feb. 11, 2010 9:58 p.m.

While many students can probably already think of many things best done in the dark, UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services and the Office of Residential Life are encouraging students to save energy in other ways.

Do It in the Dark, the residential Hill’s second annual monthlong energy-saving competition, challenges students to cut down on their individual electricity usage by 10 percent.

From Feb. 2 to March 2, the individual energy consumption for each building will be measured and weighed against the number of students that pledged to reduce their usage, said Robert Gilbert, sustainability coordinator for Housing and Hospitality Services.

“(Saving electricity is) kind of this thing you don’t pay attention to,” Gilbert said. “The main theme of this contest is to raise consciousness (of energy usage).”

Last year, the program saved 27,580 kilowatt hours, the equivalent of constantly running 685 60-watt light bulbs for an entire month, and earned 687 student pledges, according to the Sustainability Web site.

However, the program did not meet its goal of 10 percent energy reduction, Gilbert said. The top two energy-saving halls, Hitch Suites and Hedrick Summit, reduced usage by 7 and 5 percent, respectively.

Now, almost two weeks into the program, 1,118 students have pledged to Do It in the Dark.

“We’re way ahead of where we were last year, so we’re really excited,” Gilbert said.

As of Thursday, Rieber Terrace residential hall had the most pledges at 234 students, or 30 percent of the building’s residents.

Laily Sharifzadeh, a second-year communication studies student and Rieber Terrace’s Team Green representative, is promoting the program through tabling, door-knocking and providing incentives. She said Do It in the Dark is all about raising awareness to the energy crisis.

“Even if you’re not that green, there’s still little things you can do,” Sharifzadeh said.

Students should turn off their air conditioning and close the curtains of their rooms when the sun is shining in to regulate the temperature, Gilbert said. Heating and cooling can account for half of a building’s energy consumption, he added.

Also, phone chargers, CRT monitors and tube televisions still use electricity even when they are turned off. Gilbert suggested plugging such devices into a power bar and turning it off when they are not in use.

Students aren’t alone in cutting down on energy use on the Hill. Housing and Hospitality Services is currently retrofitting the heating and cooling systems of many of its buildings and installing occupancy sensors to cut down on energy use. All new buildings will be at least LEED Silver certified for sustainability.

As the administration retrofits many of its buildings to be “greener,” Do It in the Dark aims to target residents’ behavior to reduce energy consumption, Gilbert said.

“If the people … fill out the pledge and make a change, then I would think the competition is a success,” Gilbert said.

Jade Nguyen and Cliff Vuong said they are reminded to save energy throughout their Sproul Hall floor.

“Our floor has posters all over it that says “˜Do this,'” said Nguyen, a first-year physiological sciences student.

Although she did not pledge to the program, she still tries to save energy, she said.

In order to pledge, students may check one to 16 boxes on that reflect a range of sustainability issues, such as taking the stairs, using energy-efficient light bulbs, recycling and composting.

“I boxed everything,” said Vuong, a first-year neuroscience student. “I feel some obligation to do it because I live on the green sustainability floor.”

Although residents discussed the program at floor meetings, Tyler Underwood, a second-year physics student, said he hasn’t noticed a difference on his floor in Dykstra Hall.

“I haven’t really seen anything drastic,” Underwood said.

“That’s not to say that no one is doing anything, it’s just more subtle.”

While it is possible people are trying to cut back, he said, it just may be hard for others to notice.

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