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Green Cup Challenge: 2011

This year’s Green Cup Challenge, the annual interscholastic competition to reduce energy consumption and spread environmental awareness, began on January 21st. By now, most members of the Deerfield community are familiar with this challenge, particularly with the more prominent inter-dorm aspect of the competition. But is the Green Cup truly effective in meeting its goals?

Undoubtedly, the challenge has produced positive results every year Deerfield has participated. The success of each school is measured in kilowatt hours of electricity reduced from last year per person, based on the total energy used on campus. Last year we came in 18th place out of more than 50 schools, saving more than $6,000 in energy costs.

In recent years, increased competition, such as last year’s challenge with NMH and Choate, has spurred higher success levels in the challenge at Deerfield.

The main goal of Deerfield’s continual participation in the competition is to get students committed and excited about saving energy. Lauren Veit, a science teacher and leader in the environmental initiative on campus, hopes that “the Green Cup Challenge helps with raising awareness about the importance of sustainability,” and that “we can cultivate a student body that is more committed to saving the environment.”

However, there are rather contentious aspects to this competition as well. According to environmental proctor Charlotte McLaughry ’11, the Green Cup Challenge takes only electricity consumption into consideration. Therefore, other factors such as oil and natural gas consumption, water use and recycling efforts, which contribute enormously to overall carbon consumption, are disregarded in the challenge.

Although, according to science teacher and environmental leader Brian Fry, Deerfield has the capabilities to measure some of these factors, some of the other schools in the competition do not, and thus only electricity reduction is widely promoted during the challenge.

Additionally, the Green Cup Challenge only lasts roughly a month, from January 21 to February 24. Despite being the most widely-known environmental initiative on campus, it represents only about one eighth of the school year. Despite the hard work of the environmental proctors, many students don’t place a high priority on living sustainably outside of the Green Cup Challenge.

Clearly, the Green Cup Challenge is effective in reducing energy consumption, but some fear that when the challenge is over, many students will reassume their old habits of leaving lights and music on or computer and cell phone chargers plugged in out of convenience.

This is something with which many proponents of sustainability on campus struggle. “I wish that there were ways to encourage people to live sustainably all the time as well as during the Green Cup Challenge,” McLaughry said.

“It’s easy to forget that something as simple as turning off a switch can save energy and money. If every student does something, that is definitely going to make a difference,” noted Mr. Fry.