Greek Houses Compete in Sustainability Contest

Greek organizations on campus recently participated in the Broad Street Energy Challenge: Greeks Go Green, a six-week competition run by the Office of Sustainability to determine whose Broad Street house was the most sustainable.

The pilot program was implemented this year to aid the Office of Sustainability’s goal of lowering Colgate’s ecological footprint, reducing energy costs and increasing student understanding of environmental issues.

This program is the first of its kind to be implemented on a college campus. Director of Sustainability John Pumilio adapted it from the Central New York Energy Challenge, which offers many action-based initiatives for communities to adopt.

“I am hopeful something like this could become a model for Greek communities across the country,” Pumilio said. “This would further spotlight Colgate as an innovative leader in the field of sustainability.”

Office of Sustainability interns senior Kathryn Bacher and sophomore Breanna Giovanniello directed the competition, leading six weekly meetings to inform representatives of each Greek organization about how to make their houses more sustainable. 

“I’ve seen how unsustainable students can be because of their mentality and because the houses are not set up in a way that fosters sustainability,” Bacher said. “The competition was created with the hope to raise awareness about various aspects of sustainability and to introduce the sustainability chairs to different projects that they might want to continue after the competition is over.”

Although the sustainability chairs attended the weekly meetings, the competition required involvement from all members of the organizations. All of the Greek organizations were invited to participate in the contest, and eight out of the nine organizations joined. Gamma Phi Beta was not interested in participating due to the small size of its house.

The competition assessed sustainable behavior in electricity consumption, waste management, water usage and awareness. The winner of the competition will be determined mid-November and will be awarded a dinner catered by Royal India Grill.

According to Bacher, the goals of the competition were to reduce electricity and water usage from September to October by 10 percent, implement pre-consumer waste composting and ensure major trash bin areas were accompanied by paper and plastic recycling bins.

According to the Broad Street Energy Challenge manual, the contest was dependent on sustainability chairs measuring the materials already present in the houses so that the Office of Sustainability could replace them with more sustainable materials.

In order to reduce electricity usage, the Office of Sustainability distributed the appropriate number of incandescent bulbs and power strips to each Greek house. The Office of Sustainability also implemented paper and plastic recycling bins next to all major waste bins in the houses, as well as proper signage informing residents of what is recyclable. Additionally, any house with a chef was encouraged to compost pre-consumer food efficiently at every meal.

Sustainability chairs were expected to raise awareness of water consumption by encouraging shorter showers, fewer loads of laundry and turning off the faucet whenever possible. In order to advocate for and measure awareness, the Office of Sustainability concluded the challenge by distributing an online eco-quiz testing residents on the purposes of the changes made in their house.

The determinants of the winner are how much a house’s electricity and water usage bill decreased from September to October, the level of participation and accuracy in the residents’ eco-quiz as well as the proper installation of the incandescent light bulbs, power strips and eco-tip reminders. Bacher and Giovanniello also asked five random residents about their knowledge of the competition in order to determine the Greek organization’s level of awareness. 

“I am excited to look at the results from this year’s Greek Sustainability Challenge,” Pumilio said. “We expected modest results in this first year of implementation. The learning curve was steep.”

This pilot program will expand in the future.

“In the spring, even though there will not be a competition, we are hoping to have bi-weekly or monthly meetings with the Greek sustainability chairs to discuss ideas and ways to green up the houses,” Bacher said. “Also, the houses all loved seeing their utility bill and how they compared to the other houses so we want to make the information available for them each month. If we run the competition again next year we hope to expand it to other Broad Street interest houses.”

Contact Julia Queller at [email protected]