KU students plugging into energy-saving contest against K-State

Because students living on Kansas University’s campus never have to see an outright electric bill, it can be a struggle to find an incentive to persuade them to conserve energy.

But KU and local officials have one trick they think will motivate students to turn off the lights: beating Kansas State.

This week, students living in eight KU residence halls began competing with students at K-State to see which group can reduce their overall electricity usage the most during the next two months.

“If you don’t see the numbers showing up on your bill, it is a lot easier to ignore the fact that someone is paying for electricity,” said Jeff Severin, director of the KU Center for Sustainability. “Introducing competition makes a big difference.”

The event is part of a larger competition between Lawrence and Manhattan dubbed the Take Charge Challenge, which pits the two cities against each other to see who takes the most steps to reduce energy consumption.

Along with bragging rights, the city with the greatest participation receives $100,000 to spend on a community renewable energy project.

The overall challenge largely focuses on what those living in homes could do to reduce energy, such as receiving an energy audit or signing up for one of Westar’s energy-efficiency programs.

Those options aren’t applicable to students living in residence halls.

So a student-friendly contest was created.

Margaret Tran, who is heading the Take Charge Challenge in Lawrence and is a recent KU graduate, said the competition takes students’ passion for conservation and turns it into action.

“Students can do something,” Tran said.

Over the next two months, students will be encouraged to:

• Turn off lights and use natural light when possible.

• Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent ones.

• Adjust computer settings to save energy.

• Power down and unplug electronics, especially energy-draining ones such as televisions and video game consoles.

KU students have a good track record of conserving energy when winning is on the line. Last spring, four student housing communities that included 120 students agreed to sign a pledge to reduce their water, electricity and natural gas usage.

The students conserved 97,800 gallons of water, 8,900 kilowatts of electricity and nearly 400 million BTUs in the amount of gas saved.

“A lot of the time, a competition like that can replace the financial incentive to get the students excited and thinking of ways to reduce their impact,” Severin said.