PHILADELPHIA –- As University of Pennsylvania students headed off for winter break in December, many took the pledge to turn down, turn off or unplug appliances as part of the Power Down Challenge.
Turns out they did more than pledge; their efforts translated into an average 7.2 percent daily reduction in electrical use during the break and $2,300 in savings for the University, compared to usage in the same resident halls during the winter break last year.
Thanks to support from Eco-Reps in college houses and Greek chapters, more than 2,000 Penn students pledged to power down, demonstrating their commitment to energy conservation, a goal of the University’s Climate Action Plan. During this year’s winter Power Down, students in the college houses that participated last year – Rodin, Hill and Kings Court English House -- registered an average 11.6 percent daily reduction in electricity use per day over last year. The remaining houses scored a daily reduction of 5.2 percent. Several Greek chapter houses also participated this year.
“It helped that some residents were doing this competition for the second time this year,” Dan Garofalo, Penn’s sustainability coordinator, said. “The Power Down was run by student leaders in each College House, so being familiar with the idea of turning off appliances and equipment and shutting windows tightly helped them recruit participants. Ultimately, the entire University benefits from lower utility costs and a reduced impact on the environment.”
To encourage student interest, Penn made this a contest between the residences, with winners emerging in two categories: the highest number of pledges in college houses measured by percentage and by absolute numbers, taking into account the varied populations of each college house. Rodin House took home the most-participants honors with 313 of its 813 residents signing the Power Down pledge, while DuBois House, with 173 residents, achieved a 100 percent pledge rate. Residents of both houses will receive dessert parties where Green Campus Partnership T-shirts and energy smart strips will be distributed.
Penn staff and faculty also made their own impact across campus during their winter vacation period as many powered down in hundreds of offices and labs as well. The Challenge has laid the groundwork for more energy conservation efforts throughout the year.