Howard University is encouraging students to reduce energy usage in their dorms by participating in a campus-wide residence hall energy competition designed to save spending on electricity.
The competition is modeled on a “Green Campus Program” created by the Alliance to Save Energy that works with universities and colleges to help educate students on energy conservation and trains them to become “energy efficiency leaders.” The Alliance’s mission for 36 years now has been to promote “energy efficiency worldwide to achieve a healthier economy, a cleaner environment and energy security.”
The Alliance is providing training and planning support and $500 in funding to help Howard’s “Green Team” design and run its energy competition.
Timothy McDougle, supervisor of billing and adjustments at Howard’s Office of Residence Life and community director of Slow Hall, a dorm for upperclassmen, started the Green Team in May 2005with eight students. The group began with the purpose of finding new ways to help dorm residents have a significant environmental impact by making their living spaces eco-friendly.
“At the time the university was not fully engaged in recycling as a whole, and I saw a need here and I decided that I could at least start with Residence Life since I worked here,” McDougle said. “Since I was interested in recycling and sustainability, I started a program investigating grants, funds, and gadgets to energize the student body and to essentially start a program here at the university.”
Today there are countless student volunteers and one student coordinator for each of the ten participating dorms. The coordinators advise fellow residents on how to decrease their energy use.
The Green Team has two co-presidents, Alex Uduma and RubyLee Castain. McDougle is pleased to see increasing numbers of students interested in being a part the Green Team and playing important leadership roles throughout campus.
“Before I didn’t even have a president,” he said.
McDougle says students’ awareness about being eco-friendly and going green has grown in the years since the program began.The Green Team also provides an opportunity for those with an interest in recycling and sustainability to come together.
Uduma, a junior majoring in finance andone of the co-presidents of the Green Team, sees the team as a community that shares the same environmental interests. He wants students to realize that many others on campus are interested in helping the environment.
“They just don’t know that somebody else right next to them cares about it too,” says Uduma. “Let’s come together and make something happen so that we can better the earth and better our environment because that is what it is all about.”
McDougle wants more students to become more aware of and interested in something that affects them individually and collectively campus-wide. StacyAnn Wright, a sophomore majoring in chemistry, is the Green Team coordinator for Meridian Hill Hall. She spends her time promoting recycling and sharing facts on how to decrease the dorm’s energy usage.
“I try to get as many residents involved as possible,” she said. “It makes for a better outcome in the end when more students participate. I have played my part in handing out as many recycling bins to each person in the dorm, now it is their turn to play their part by actually following through and recycling.”
The Office of Residence Life holds a week-long festival of events called ResFest, for the students to participate in around spring break. One of their events is ResCycle Mania, which consist of video displays of students participating in recycling and sustainable activities in residence halls. Another event called Beautify the Bins allows students to have fun with the idea of recycling by decorating large blue recycling bins located on each floor of the dorms. Pounds by Person is a competition between the residence halls to collect the most recyclables based on the combined weight of the residents of each dorm. The competition begins in January and the winning hall is determined by ResFest week. Howard also takes part in the national RecycleMania competition where universities compete to prove that their school is the most environmentally sustainable.
Green Team co-president Castain, a senior majoring in human development creates events for the team and links the team with other sustainable organizations around the city to help improve the events on campus.
“If Howard wants to be a part of the future, Howard has to jump on board with being self-sustainable,” says Castain. “I want to be a part of that change.”