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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

First-years compete in sustainability contest between buildings and quads

The first-year quads are competing to reduce waste and energy usage in a monthlong sustainability contest from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15. The building that reduces their energy consumption the most and the quad that recycles the most material will recieve a to-be-determined prize. The original prize was a pizza party, but students voiced concerns that pizza is not an eco-friendly prize with the energy used to produce it and the discarded boxes.

Ashley Piccirillo-Horan ’17 a Community Advisor (CA) for North Quad, presented the idea to Brandeis’ Manager of Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer. The pair along with the Area Coordinators (ACs) for North and Massell and additional CAs are now involved with the competition.

“I grew up in a family that avidly recycled, and during move-in day when I saw more cardboard boxes in the trash than was possible for me to move into the recycling bin alone, I was determined to try and spread the word on recycling,” said Piccirillo-Horan in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.

She believes everyone must be aware of the little ways they can reduce their impact on the environment, citing the impact of decreased energy use on fossil fuel production and the effect of increased recycling levels on overall material use.

ACs Jay MacDuffie for Massell Quad and Habiba Braimah for North, introduced the competition to their residents in an email on Thursday, Oct. 15.

“The purpose of this month-long competition is to increase awareness on our usage of energy and encourage us to be more conscious about the choices we make and how it impacts our environment,” MacDuffie wrote in his initial email to Massell residents.

They provided tips for reducing energy usage, which include turning off lights and unplugging electronics, washing clothes in cold water and using drying racks. CAs will provide racks to interested students, according to an email from MacDuffie. Lists also remind students to know what is and is not recyclable and to rinse out food residue.

The ACs send weekly progress updates on the competition, because Fischer arranged to receive weekly, as opposed to monthly, reports on waste from Casella, Brandeis’ waste management company. She also analyzes the data on energy use from each first-year building and provides all this information to the ACs.

The reports use average waste production from September and average daily energy use from Sept. 1 to Oct. 14 as “baselines” to compare the new data to.

North is winning after the first week of competition, according to the weekly progress emails. Each quad is tied in recycling 21 percent of waste, with with North up from its 14 percent baseline and Massel up from 12 percent. Massell made the larger leap, to bring both quads to compatible recycling rates. However, North produced less trash and waste overall compared to Massell—0.77 tons of trash compared to Massell’s 1.16 tons. North produced around 65 percent less waste than the baseline amount for the month of September, and Massell produced around 44 percent less waste than the baseline.

Cable Hall in North has excelled in energy reduction according to the weekly update, decreasing their energy consumption by 17 percent, the most of any building. Usen, in Massell, lowered their energy use by only two percent.

Using the baseline, North as a whole decreased usage from 1612 kilowatt hours (kwh) to 1443 kwh while Massell went from 1324 to 1217. A kilowatt hour is the energy is take to power a 100-watt light bulb for ten hours. Massell used seven percent less energy, and North used nine percent less. Though North has shown a larger reduction in usage, Massell still uses less energy overall. The buildings in Massell are smaller than those in North and more students live in North.

Brandeis’ recycling rate is half the national average for universities, less than 20 percent compared to 35 to 50 percent for other schools, according to Fischer, who started at Brandeis in July.

“Our campus uses about 25 [percent] more energy per square foot than the average of comparable campuses in our climate zone, even when you adjust for the age [and] state of our buildings,” said Fischer in an email to The Hoot.  

She believes the competition will help improve these figures, as it will show students they can have a positive impact on the environment through their daily actions.

Fischer said everyone must be “dramatically focused” on the school’s carbon footprint. “Our building energy usage IS our carbon footprint—it is the most direct and important impact we have on carbon emissions,” she said.

Smaller prizes for the competition include reusable water bottles and mugs, frisbees made of recycled plastic and LED light bulbs, and are for “ongoing participation,” Fischer said. Students who attend an education session for the sustainability contest, yesterday or on Tuesday Nov. 3, can win the LED bulbs or frisbees. Students can take the “global pledge” to live sustainably and be entered into a raffle to win the water bottles and mugs.

Fischer’s other initiatives since include, “Energy Champions,” a group of staff and faculty who “assist in energy reduction efforts” for different buildings on campus, she is revamping the composting program at both dining halls and looking to add more solar panels to campus.

She is also working on Brandeis’ Climate Action Plan to reduce the university’s carbon footprint, a major focus of a new task force on campus sustainability. She was also involved with the “Turn It Off” program from this summer, which helped encourage those on campus to reduce energy use on peak heat days.

Piccirillo-Horan hopes drying racks will become more popular and is working with students in the new North Hall Council, a form of student government for the quad, to organize a free-throw contest with plastic water bottles to raise awareness about sustainability.

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