PSU reduces in the 2014 Campus Conservation Nationals

Ready. Set. Go. Campus Conservation Nationals, a three-week challenge to reduce energy and water usage in dorms kicked off last Monday.

Portland State will be taking part in the CCN for the second year in a row, with six residence halls participating: Broadway, Ondine, Epler, Montgomery, Blumel and St. Helens.

“We’re teaching basic understanding of how important it is to conserve and the idea of why it’s important,” said Kristen Purdy, a sophomore environmental science major and EcoReps coordinator for the Sustainability Leadership Center. The EcoReps are a group of student leaders for sustainability in residence halls.

Each spring a three-month window opens for universities to sign up and choose when their 21-day period will commence. During CCN, weekly energy usage is recorded and compared to typical numbers.

“We take a two-week reading at beginning of the term and compare the weekly balance baseline period to compare usage,” said Noel Mingo, utilities manager for facilities and property management at PSU.

After the readings have been obtained, they are documented on an interactive dashboard on CCN’s website, where they are tracked and compared with all of the other participating universities.

During last year’s CCN, PSU saved more than $2,000 in energy bills for the three residence halls that participated: Broadway, Ondine and Epler.

So, why is it only three weeks of sustainability?

“You may have heard before that it takes 21 days to form a habit,” said Hannah Debelius, program manager for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Students for Green Schools, which is an organizing partner of CCN. “That’s exactly how long our competition is in order to promote long-term lifestyle changes.”

To keep with the theme of sustainability, the PSU EcoReps have decided to plan several sustainability-based events that will coincide with CCN.

“We’re doing a bunch of education events like tabling in lobbies of residence halls, and events like the Candlelight Dinner [that was held on Feb. 13] and more,” Purdy said.

Purdy also noted that students can sign a sustainability pledge in order to continue their conservation efforts once CCN has ended.

“Sustainability pledges allow students to take whatever sort of pledge they want,” Purdy said. “They can pledge to do things like set their computer to sleep mode, making sure they’re unplugging stuff that’s not being used, turning off water when brushing teeth, taking shorter showers…They get their picture taken next to a chalkboard with their pledge written on it and they get posted on [the EcoReps] Facebook page.”

The PSU EcoReps have two events coming up: Pedal for Power, which will allow students to drop in and blend their own smoothies manually using a pedaling machine, and Blackout Game Night, an event that encourages attendees to step away from their electronic devices and play board games with others. Pedal for Power will be held in Ondine on Feb. 26 at 7 a.m. and Blackout Game Night will be on March 7 from 7–9 p.m. in the lobbies of participating residence halls.

“The event is sort of a celebration event for the end of Campus Conservation Nationals where students in the residence halls can have fun and build community, all while turning off the lights in their room and coming down to the lobby,” Purdy said.

“We are also encouraging residents to unplug from laptops, TVs and cell phones and spend time with the people in their communities. We are hoping to display the data from CCN on televisions in the lobbies that have them to show what progress we made.”

Purdy also noted that Blumel Hall will have kid-friendly board games along with the regular board games.
Debelius believes that the events will have a positive impact on the future of sustainability.

“Significant behavioral changes at home, the office or in dorms have a large impact on energy and water use,” Debelius said. “The benefit of committing to these behavioral changes on campus is that it can foster a widespread culture of sustainability.”

Updates of PSU’s progress can be found at