School News
Students 'Unplugged' for Hurricane Harvey Relief in October
By Austin College
Nov 9, 2017
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Sherman, Texas -- Austin College students competed in the 8th Annual AC Unplugged energy-saving competition from October 2 –30. The competition teaches students good energy-saving habits like turning off lights when leaving a room, taking shorter showers, and unplugging power strips when not in use. This year, it also benefits the Houston Food Bank with a donation of more than $1,700.

The themes of this year’s competition were “Stop the Flooding, Keep Unplugging!” and “Don’t let the storm become the norm” to encourage students to think about the connection between energy use, climate change, and the dangerous weather that climate warming makes more likely. The residence halls won prize money for charity based on how well they performed in the competition. This year’s prize money is being donated to Houston Food Bank’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. In addition, Austin College is donating all of the money saved as a result of the reduced-energy use to the relief effort. 

Students saved over 10,000 kilowatt-hours during the four weeks of the competition for a grand total of $1,770 that will be donated to Houston Food Bank. “Each year it is fun to see how much of an impact the students can make by changing their energy-use behaviors. Our hope was that the connection to Hurricane Harvey relief would motivate students to give the competition a greater effort than in years past,” said Katie Collins, Class of 2019 and one of the leaders of Austin College Thinking Green Campus Awareness, the College’s student-led campus sustainability organization. 

Because of the collaborative effort, the students did not name a “winner” of the competition, but noted strengths of the various residence halls. Clyce Hall, which houses both men and women, had the lowest energy use overall; the men of Baker Hall reduced their energy use every single week compared to the week before; the men and women of Dean Hall saved the most kilowatt-hours; and the women of Caruth Hall were the most consistent in their energy use. 

This was the second year that upperclassmen living in the Hass Cottages on Grand Avenue have participated in the competition. The cottage whose residents save the most energy will have two-thirds of their October energy bill paid by Thinking Green Campus Awareness. There are plans to open up the competition to all on-campus housing in the future after installing new electrical meters. “We’re working to put the infrastructure in place to expand AC Unplugged to other places on campus next year. We hope students stay inspired to use resources wisely long after the competition ends,” said Dr. Mari Elise Ewing, director of Thinking Green Campus Awareness.

Austin College is featured in Princeton Review’s 2017 Guide to 375 Green Colleges. The College has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 45% since 2008, when it began comprehensive greenhouse gas reporting. Improvements in electricity and natural gas use efficiency save the College about $430,000 per year compared to 2004 usage.