For the second year in a row, our campus was impacted by a severe storm in October. While the aftermath of these storms may be devastating, it may be the most compelling catalyst for change. Both of these storms have happened during UNH’s annual energy challenge in the residence halls. How are these two occurrences related? If it is accepted that the increase in natural disasters can be attributed, at least in part, to climate change, then we are all both implicated in the destruction and responsible for a solution. Use of energy sources that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is a contribution to Sandy, by extrapolation, as well as to the myriad known and unknown consequences of global warming.
For students, it is common to feel disconnected from important decisions on campus related to energy and environmental policies, but the one thing we obviously have direct control over is our own actions. The “UNH Unplugged” Energy Challenge is a chance to make a statement with minimal effort. The Challenge happens every year, and is running from Oct. 24 to Nov. 21, and encourages students to cut down on energy use in their residence halls and on-campus apartments. The hall with the greatest decrease in energy use wins a prize, but the true goal of the challenge is to cultivate a lifestyle from short-term habit changes.
We are all a “part of the problem,” so to speak, and are contributing to the astronomical energy costs of running the residence halls each year. Cutting back on our energy can truly affect our wallets if we really make the effort.
Whether your incentive to cut back your energy use comes from wishing to preserve the Earth as we know it, or to reduce the millions of dollars spent by just one of the thousands of college campuses in the United States, challenge yourself to use this opportunity to make a difference where you can.
Making these simple changes now could help to avoid more difficult and unpleasant changes down the road. Finding out how much energy the building you live in uses can be an eye-opening experience. Out of all the Gables buildings, the tower I live in has one of the highest energy expenditures, exceeding $100,000. Everyone can educate himself or herself about building energy usage. The Energy Office has recently released a mobile app so that all UNH community members can find out the real-time data on their building. While the challenge is geared toward students, I would hope that staff and faculty would take advantage of ease of available information on their own building spaces.