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Lights go out on the Hill during energy competition


It’s dorm against dorm on the Hill this month as UCLA students compete to see which residence hall can cut its electricity use the most.

No sacrifice is too small. Students are unplugging their cellphone chargers, flipping off their light switches and throwing flashlight parties for the Hill’s fourth annual Do It In The Dark Energy-Saving Competition. Each dorm has a Team Green coordinator leading the charge, spreading the word by hosting lightbulb swaps or going door-to-door dressed as a vampire to educate other Bruins about “vampire power” (the energy-sucking power drain caused by plugged-in electronics, even when devices are turned off), said Rebecca Miller, the sustainability analyst for UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services.

The Office of Residential Life provides the energy-saving lightbulbs for bulb swaps and Miller advises the Team Green coordinators on
implications of electricity use, in addition to behavioral basics, like using heaters and air conditioners less or not at all, taking the stairs instead of elevators and unplugging energy-sucking electronics.

Miller also goes from dorm to dorm once a week with a map and a flashlight to find the electric meters – up to seven per building – hidden in basement utility closets or outdoor cages. She keeps track of how much energy each building uses so that rankings can be shared, riling up some competitive spirit.

Those weekly updates are a good motivator, according to a study by Professor Magali Delmas, an environmental economist with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. She put individual energy meters into certain dorm rooms last year and posted charts on how much energy was being saved per room, a strategy that spurred more energy conservation. “This showed that status and social pressure is a powerful tool,” said Delmas. She calls it the Prius effect. “That’s how the Prius became such a popular car. People like the status of demonstrating how green they are.”