Two weeks ago, Andover announced the start of the Green Cup Challenge, a competition between students to see which dorm can produce the least amount of energy over a period of four weeks. The main purpose of this competition is to encourage energy conservation on a daily basis, and the winners are rewarded with various eco-themed prizes. While the competition itself is a wonderful idea and a great way to promote energy conservation, it is also something that will come to an end. Though students may become more aware of their energy usage during the next four weeks, my biggest fear is that their efforts will slowly decrease as the challenge winds to a halt.
Thus far, the competition has been very effective, but it is just that: a competition with a defined starting point and ending point. If students view this initiative as only a competition and not an everyday effort, their efforts will last only as long as the challenge itself because they are lacking a good incentive to continue developing more eco-friendly habits after these four weeks are up.
I don’t think many people view the Green Cup Challenge as much of an incentive because of the belief that the state of the planet won’t directly affect them. Many people are failing to prioritize keeping the Earth safe because, as this change is not sudden, they feel that they don’t have to worry about the consequences of unsustainability. This, in turn, causes them to neglect doing simple things to turn the planet in a better direction.
Earth’s climate change is a subtle process, and the efforts to counter the effects of our energy usage are oftentimes not immediately visible. I think the belief that sustainability isn’t an important issue has formed a dangerous notion that we, as a global society, are doing enough to create better environment. For example, a person who leaves the lights on in their dorm room while they are in class may think that their energy usage is minor and that they needn’t bother to turn their lights off. What they fail to realize; however, is that their actions are setting back already strained efforts to conserve energy. The effort to conserve energy is not just a corporate or government effort; the actions of ordinary citizens make the biggest difference.
The biggest way for students to make this competition truly productive is by exercising their best efforts in conserving energy both during and after the Green Cup Challenge. Energy conservation is not a process that has any stopping point and requires that everyone contribute, even in the smallest, most commonplace ways.
Subtle differences in routine such as turning the light off when you leave a room or taking advantage of natural daylight really do make the biggest difference. Realizing that conserving energy is more than just a month-long competition adds even more importance to those actions. It’s crucial that everyone at Andover makes their best effort to conserve as much energy as they can during the competition, but a four-week challenge is only part of the global sustainability effort.
Caroline Gihlstorf is a New Lower from Chapel Hill, N.C.