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Conservation contest a success among students

by Richard Veilleux - October 20, 2008

When Catherine Pomposi was handed the job of coordinating this year’s EcoMadness contest, her goals were to get more students involved and increase the amount of water and energy conserved during the bi-annual three-week contest.

She succeeded in both.

The junior from Southington recruited 32 eco-captains, nearly one for every floor in each residence hall involved. She ran movies in the residence halls – Planet Earth – and in the Student Union Theatre – Into the Wild.

Before showing Into the Wild, she explained to the audience that unless people become more environmentally aware, the pristine forests and lakes and mountains seen in the movie will be no more.

She also made sure that the editors of the Stall Street News – a mini-paper posted in residence hall bathrooms – carried ads for EcoMadness.

The results?

Every building in every complex that participated – Northwest, North, Towers, and Shippee – showed an improvement compared to last fall’s contest. Sherman/Webster, a building in Towers, won the energy reduction contest, cutting their energy use by more than 28 percent for the period.

Another building in Towers – Morgan/Trumbull/Sousa/Lafayette – won the water conservation contest by reducing its water use by nearly 10 percent, more than 9 gallons a day, during the three weeks.

“Catherine did a great job,” says Rich Miller, director of the Office of Environmental Policy, where Pomposi is a student intern. “It’s a real challenge to put this together, recruit enough eco-captains, and motivate everybody to really work at conservation.”

Pomposi says the event is held in late September for three reasons: to reach out to freshmen early in their careers – all the residence halls involved are predominantly freshman dorms; because the Fenton River typically has not regained its flow after summer’s heat and dry spells; and because the demand for water and electricity on campus, with roughly 15,000 students moving in, typically spikes at that time.

“I think the results show that we have well educated and younger greenies coming in,” she says.

How much they learned she will know in a few weeks, she says, when she checks the sub-meters installed in the residence halls to see whether the energy and water use levels have remained low since the EcoMadness campaign ended.

Now, Pomposi, who is studying to be a climate scientist, is taking on another challenge – coordinating Earth Day activities on campus.

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