In October, the University of Connecticut Office of Sustainability will sponsor its 10th annual EcoMadness competition, a month-long competition to encourage conservation among students, according to the Office of Sustainability website.
The competition will judge participating dorm halls across campus on their residents’ ability to conserve energy and water as well as recycle. Buildings will have meters that will update weekly showing their water and energy usage per capita as well as meters for recycling compliance.
Three winners will be determined based on the three categories of conservation. Dorm halls that see the largest reduction in water usage, energy usage and the dorm with the most recycling compliance will receive a Dairy Bar ice cream party for residents.
Patrick McKee, sustainability program manager at the UConn Office of Sustainability, reflected on the success of the EcoMadness competition over the years and what he saw as successful strategies that students have used to win.
“This is the 10th year for EcoMadness at UConn! We’ve had varying degrees of participation by ResHalls through the years, but typically we have found a champion ‘EcoCaptain’ for each hall who takes a lead role in reminding their residents on how to save energy, reduce their water usage, and recycle properly,” McKee noted. “They also conduct recycling ‘audits’ which help to determine how well residents sort recycling from trash in common areas. We’ve seen flyers, emails and even mini-competitions like a ‘lights off day’ be successful.”
McKee also noted that this year resident halls will have the benefit of EcoCaptains to help direct students in their conservation efforts.
“This year we have partnered with ResLife to hire paid EcoCaptains for each hall and are hopeful that those individuals will be leading the charge even after the competition is over,” McKee said.
When asked about how he believes EcoMadness changes students’ ideas and attitudes toward conservation, McKee stated that EcoMadness is a great opportunity, especially this year, to engage with a large number of students and show how small changes can create tangible results.
“EcoMadness is one opportunity we have to really engage with a large population of UConn students to educate them on more sustainable behaviors which can transcend into their personal lives even after graduation. This year is especially important for us since so many second-year students missed out on the resident experience last year,”McKee stated.
McKee also discussed his belief in collective action to solve big problems and how the smallest action can cause the biggest impact. He believes that EcoMadness is a great demonstration of this principle, with substantial reductions in water and energy consumption leading to a healthier environment.
“We hope that students will think about their consumptive behaviors and make small changes that can make a big difference. Sometimes we notice double digit percentage reductions in water or electricity usage by the leaders. It goes to show how collectively we can significantly reduce our resource demands,” McKee said.
Finally, McKee encouraged students to take the lessons learned this year as a result of EcoMadness and pursue conservation and sustainability outside of UConn.
“We hope students will adopt long-term sustainable behaviors and will be inspired to get more involved in sustainability not only at UConn, but in their communities as well,” stated McKee.