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Mike Steinhoff
Office of Sustainability

Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Students at IU compete for the second time in the IU Energy Challenge

March 25, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Students at Indiana University Bloomington will participate in the campus's second "IU Energy Challenge," a dormitory energy and water conservation competition. Combining student residential life, graduate research and campus operations, the competition integrates numerous aspects of campus life to promote greater environmental sustainability on campus.

This year the contest is branching out of the residence halls and into several houses in the Greek community.

The project is a collaborative effort between the Residence Halls Association, students in the School of Informatics, IU Physical Plant Utilities and the IU Office of Sustainability. In addition, this year's inclusion of Greek houses could not have been accomplished without the assistance of Duke Energy and City of Bloomington Utilities, which provided data on past consumption at each house. The competition will take place today through April 22 and will culminate in an award celebration on Earth Day.

The four-week competition will encourage students living in 10 IU Bloomington residence halls to compete to reduce their energy and water consumption against a baseline of their dorm's average per capita electricity and water consumption over a three-year average.

The residence hall that shows the greatest combined reduction in energy and water use will receive a large celebratory cookout the weekend before final exams. Other prizes will be available to other top performers thanks to contributions from the IU Physical Plant and Residential Programs and Services. Participating dorms include: Eigenmann, Briscoe, McNutt, Foster, Ashton, Willkie, Forest, Read, Teter and Wright.

"Students typically learn about energy-productive living from a lecture or a book," said IU Bloomington Director of Sustainability Bill Brown. "The Energy Challenge is an outstanding example of the power of a peer-to-peer hands-on learning experience that thousands of students will never forget. It is a lesson they will carry with them to their future workplaces and homes. For Indiana University, this is an opportunity to collaborate creatively across multiple academic and operational departments to achieve common goals of reduction in energy use, cost and emissions. "

This year's energy savings will likely be bolstered by IU's participation as a flagship campus in Earth Hour, a world-wide voluntary rolling blackout to raise awareness of climate change, which takes place three days after the start of the competition.

Karen Hanson, Indiana University provost and executive vice president, said, "We have signed on as a flagship campus for Earth Hour to demonstrate our commitment to energy conservation, to remind ourselves of the importance of conservation and to show solidarity with concerned citizens within and beyond our community. The Earth Hour is only an hour, however, and our commitment to sustainability goes beyond this symbolic gesture. We are now also embarked on our second campus Energy Challenge, building on the success of last year's efforts, and we once again expect great results -- improvements in our habits of energy use and in our operational practice."

The Energy Challenge Web site ( helps students to visualize their consumption by providing dorm and Greek house residents with periodic feedback on how much energy and water has been used throughout the competition. Every building's starting point is being taken March 25, and the Web site will start being able to show results after the second readings the following Monday, March 30.

"The competition leverages data our Utility Information Group already collects and is directly in line with our current efforts to raise people's awareness of their energy consumption," said Mark Menefee, assistant director of utilities at IU Bloomington. "Hopefully the annual energy challenge events will one day transition to a continuous effort by students, faculty and staff to monitor and reduce all energy consumption on campus."

Mckenzie Beverage, coordinator of this year's challenge and an intern with the Office of Sustainability, agrees.

"The Energy Challenge is a great way for students in the dorms and Greek houses who don't normally see a utility bill to conserve energy and see what a difference an individual's actions can make," said Beverage, a graduate student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Beverage is confident that "we will see even bigger results this year." This is in large part due to her efforts to promote the challenge widely using media ranging from e-mail chains, stories on IU Student Television, posters, kick off events, and a lot of on-the-ground networking.

The original idea for the Energy Challenge came from David Roedl, a former graduate student in the School of Informatics who studied the connection between human-computer interaction and sustainability, and who thought of the competition in connection with his master's thesis.

Last year Roedl submitted the design for the original IU Energy Challenge Web site to Microsoft's Imagine Cup Interface Design Competition. Roedl, along with Will Odom, another Informatics graduate studying human-computer interaction, went on to win the prestigious competition last summer in Paris.

Last year's Energy Challenge was credited with reducing IU's electrical consumption by 446,139 KWh and water use by 613,919 gallons. The competition saved an estimated $26,000 in avoided energy and water costs, as well as greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking 67 passenger cars off the road for one year.

More information about the contest, emerging results and tips on how to conserve energy and water can be found at More information about the Indiana University sustainability initiative can be found at