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Take the energy challenge

By Mara Kumagai Fink '11
February 18, 2009

Although February is winding down, the Minnesota Campus Energy Challenge is in full swing -- and there's still time to make a difference.

St. Olaf is competing against 10 other colleges and universities across the state, including Carleton, Gustavus and Macalester, to reduce electricity and heat consumption campus-wide. In order to win, St. Olaf must reduce more energy this month than the other schools compared to its energy use the last three Februaries.

The school is facing an extra challenge this year because of the additional energy and heat used by the new Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. Although the facility is a "green" building that was designed to have minimal impact on the environment, the energy it uses wasn't factored into the college's usage numbers in previous years. This is all the more reason, organizers for the Campus Energy Challenge say, that St. Olaf students need to reduce their personal energy consumption to help the college compete in the challenge.

Things like taking shorter showers, drying laundry on a rack rather than in a clothes dryer, and using public computers can reduce the campus' carbon footprint. One of the most important things students can do, says Campus Energy Challenge state coordinator John van der Linden '10, is to plug electronics into a surge protector. The so-called "phantom" load (when appliances are turned off but still use energy) consumes a lot of energy, especially with laptop battery chargers.

"Saving energy doesn't have to be a chore. It's actually really simple to do some of these things," says van der Linden. "Plugging electronics into a surge protector takes a minute. Turing off a surge protector each night takes one second. It doesn't have to be super involved."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or