campus news and events

Students Respond to Polar Bear's Plight

Computers, microwaves,fridges, iPods, cell phones,televisions, lamps—college students stash a lot of electronics in their rooms. It's easy to leave something turned on when dashing off to class,and even easier to forget that this growing list of appliances and gadgets have a negative environmental impact. Electrical consumption makes up 43 percent of Colby-Sawyer's emissions.

In November 2011, after months of planning by Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer White '90 and the Sustainability Core, and a generous gift from an anonymous alumna,students received a new housemate and a tangible reminder of their energy consumption when monitors with an animated polar bear were installed in every residence hall. A product of the sustainability company TellEmotion,real-time energy use is illustrated through the bear's behavior and a letter grade: When energy use in the building is low(Grade A), the bear smiles and cavorts with butter-flies. When energy use rises, the bear turns glum,and the grade drops; with heavy usage, the sun blazes and melts the ice floe beneath the bear,leaving it floundering in D- straits. The image of a drowning polar bear is very effective in influencing students' behavior.

After the college collected baseline information on energy consumption,a competition among residence halls was held during Sustainability Week(Nov. 28-Dec. 2 2011) to see which hall could cut its consumption most.

Residents of Colby Hall kept an eye on their Bear-O-Meter and reduced their consumption 14.58 percent to win the contest and a pizza party. More than pizza (and Klondike bars, naturally), the real prize is reduced carbon emissions, money saved,and the beginnings of a culture that consciously strives for energy efficiency.