Every February, Deerfield Academy participates in the Green Cup Challenge (GCC), a nationwide initiative to conserve resources and reduce their carbon footprint.
The challenge began at Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA) in 2003 as a competition to see which dormitory could conserve the most energy. It saved PEA thousands of dollars in utility costs and raised awareness about greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, the GCC has spread to over forty other schools and has been overseen by the Green Schools Alliance, an organization dedicated to sustainability education and action.
This year, Deerfield is competing with seven peer schools – Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary Hall, Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH), Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, and St. Paul’s – to see which school can reduce its energy usage the most. Unlike previous years, this year’s challenge is organized and run completely by students.
On January 22, Sophie Opler ’19, Fatima Zahoor ’18, and Sydney Williams ’17, all students involved in organizing the Green Cup Challenge this year, attended a summit at NMH to meet with other school representatives and discuss ways to motivate students to participate in the challenge.
“Many people don’t know that the most important thing isn’t [turning your lights off], but unplugging. Having a cord plugged in like a laptop charger or fan uses electricity even when it’s not on,” Opler noted. “[And] having somebody to remind you really helps.”
However, Deerfield’s Green Cup Challenge hasn’t always met its goal.
Global Studies, Sustainability, and Service Fellow Ms. Heather Wakeman recalled one particular incident: “Students were buying headlamps so that they could work with their lights off, which actually increase[d] their carbon footprint,” Ms. Wakeman said. “we were hurting the environment, not helping. It was all very backwards.”
Wakeman stressed that the mission of the challenge wasn’t necessarily about the exact amount of energy saved, but about helping students develop good habits and understand their personal impact on the environment.
While the dorm that reduces the most energy this month will receive a prize of a feed, Opler, Zahoor, and Williams all agree that what really matters is the learning experience.
Opler stated, “If Deerfield can teach our students how to live effectively in the real world and how to reduce energy where they can… I think it’s a good takeaway.”