Remember the GCC

The Green Cup Challenge is officially over. So now we can go back to enjoying thirty minute long showers, leaving our lights on all day, and taking the elevator to college counseling. Right? Well, maybe not. True, we are no longer tracking our energy consumption for the purposes of winning a contest, and the opportunity to “out-green” Exeter is gone. However, the true goals of the Green Cup Challenge should be remembered. They were not to prove our superiority to the fourteen other participating schools (although that was definitely an added incentive). They were not to win the cash prize or the Green Cup Trophy. The GCC strove to educate us about global warming and teach us ways to reduce our contribution to this worldwide problem. A January 26th, 2007 news article on the Phillips Academy Web site stated that “among the guidelines established for the competition is the requirement that participants find ways of conserving energy that can be continued beyond the competition.” This is our next challenge: how do we remind ourselves to continue being green? If we revert to our old ways now that the competition has officially ended, then our participation in the competition loses much of its significance. It is still our responsibility to “Save the Watt.” There are many campus-wide efforts already underway. For example, at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, many of the energy-saving measures put into practice during the month-long challenge will remain in effect even now that the competition is over. For example, the lights in the stacks will remain off, as well as the lights in the bathrooms during the day. In an effort to reduce the overwhelming amount of paper waste at the library, the school is also exploring the possibility of investing in recycled paper for the printers. However, this paper is more costly than that which is currently in use, and in order to make such an investment worthwhile, library director Elisabeth Tully says that the OWHL would “need cooperation from students to reduce printer waste so that the cost nets out.” Mrs. Tully is also concerned about the unnecessary use of the handicapped entrances. Not only do the automatic doors waste energy every time they are opened, but they also allow a significant amount of heat to escape. The continuing reforms in Commons are also indicative of the school’s determination to help stop global warming as a community. Many of the foods currently offered in Commons come from local farmers and bakeries. The geographic proximity of these food suppliers to campus means that less fuel is burned transporting our bread, milk, and vegetables from the farms to our plates. According to, Commons’ new Web site, the napkins in the dining halls are unbleached and biodegradable. The new “Organically Yours” table, currently located in Upper Right, gives students the option to eat organic milk, bread, peanut butter, jelly, and much more. These organic options are also going to be made available to Lower Left and Lower Right sometime in March. Even the relatively new plastic cups are more sustainable than their old glass counterparts— says that they have “reduced the amount of water needed to clean the glasses, lowered beverage waste, and reduced our replacement purchases.” Commons and the Library are committed to being green. What is it, then, that we students can do to continue the pattern of sustainability established by the GCC? I’m not going to give you a bulleted list of the things you can do to save the planet, because I know you’ve heard all of them countless times already. It’s not a matter of education anymore. It’s a matter of application. When you are given the choice to recycle a Coke can or hit a light switch, just do it. Although we may not be watching the watts anymore, it is still our responsibility to keep Phillips Academy (and the world beyond) as green as we can. Hopefully, all of us have adopted some energy-saving habits over the past month that we will continue to exercise in our day-to-day lives. I’ve started doing my math homework on the paper waste from the printers in the library. A friend of mine quipped that after the GCC, she now knows how to get around her roommate’s messy room in the dark. My English teacher turned off the lights in our classroom last week. It’s been said time and again that “it ain’t easy being green,” but after the 2007 GCC, I completely disagree. It’s surprisingly easy to be green, and even a little bit goes a long way. If you don’t believe me, just ask the polar bears.