Howe Hall wins Eco‑Olympics

'Conscious decisions can be made on any scale wherever you are'

- April 25, 2011

Students Chauncey Erskine and Sean Lanzner do an energy use demo in the SUB.
Students Chauncey Erskine and Sean Lanzner do an energy use demo in the SUB.

Taking shorter showers and using the stairs rather than the elevator were some of the strategies used by students competing in Dalhousie’s Residence Eco-Olympics.

During the two-week challenge that ran March 14 to March 28, students in residence were encouraged to adopt more sustainable behavior and work to reduce their water and energy consumption. The incentive? The winning residence would be awarded the coveted Rethink residence trophy from Dalhousie’s Office of Sustainability.

Compete against themselves

To take into account the varying sizes of the residence buildings, residences competed against themselves; energy and water baseline measurements were taken a week before the Eco-Olympics began. At the end of the two-week challenge, the energy and water consumption rates of each residence building were compared against their own baseline measurements.

Gerard Hall, the 2010 winner, narrowly beat Howe Hall in the water reduction competition, but with Howe Hall’s energy reduction Howe emerged as the overall winner of the Dalhousie Eco-Olympics. As the largest residence building, home to over 700 students, this impressive feat makes Howe Hall the worthy host of the Rethink residence trophy for 2011!

The Dalhousie Residence Eco-Olympics 2011 was successfully organized and implemented due to the combined efforts of Melissa Mackay, the Residence Education Coordinator, first-year students and sustainability residence reps Chauncey Erskine and Sean Lanzner, the Green Residence Forum, the Dalhousie Office of Sustainability, and many other volunteers and Dalhousie staff. Organizers anticipate that Eco-Olympics 2011 will yield benefits that extend beyond the two-week challenge.

“Eco-Olympics is an important and fun way to encourage students to think about their environmental impact,” Ms. Mackay says. “Many students come to residence straight from their family homes and have difficulty adapting their normal environmentally-friendly habits to a large building atmosphere. Eco-Olympics increases awareness that conscious decisions can be made on any scale wherever you are.”

“I had many people come up to me with questions about sustainability, or to say they have changed their water or electricity usage habits, or learned something new,” Mr.  Lanzner observes. “It was exciting and rewarding to see students take it upon themselves to organize events.”

Some of the events hosted during the two-week challenge included educational film screenings in residence as well as lights-off events for Earth Hour 2011 which occurred on the last Saturday of Eco-Olympics. On March 26, students participated in this inspiring global event by inviting residence musicians to play at coffee houses, throwing a slumber party in Gerard Hall’s main lounge with a marathon of John Hughes movies, and putting their detective skills to work during an Earth Hour murder mystery party in the dark.

Long showers

In addition to these fun events, many different methods were used to grab students’ attention. These included hosting energy-use demonstrations in residence lobbies and using washable window markers to write environmental facts and messages about water usage on bathroom mirrors. Mr. Erskine found this communication strategy was effective at a location where the majority of water was being consumed. He believes that reducing shower time is one of the greatest challenges for students during Eco-Olympics. “University students just love taking long and frequent showers, and as a result gallons upon gallons of water are carelessly wasted.”

This year Howe Hall is the proud winner of the Dalhousie Residence Eco-Olympics, but the other residences will have another chance at the trophy in 2012. The two-week challenge promises to become an exciting annual event will continue to grow and gather momentum with each coming year.  “This year was our best yet in terms of programming options for students,” says Ms. Mackay. She anticipates next year will be even better with a greater number of events and opportunities to broaden the scope of Eco-Olympics.

Rochelle Owen, director of the Office of Sustainability, expects that the Building Dashboard® Network will be implemented in time for Eco-Olympics 2012. Using a very engaging and accessible web-based interface, near-time data measurements (updated in short intervals) of the energy and water usage in most Dalhousie buildings will be available online and shown on LCD monitors around campus. For students in residence this means they will be able to receive almost instant feedback on their efforts to reduce their energy and water consumption.

LINKS: Residence Eco-Olympics | Building Dashboard® Network |
Atlantic Residence Energy Conservation Challenge Results 2011


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