CSU Chico Wildcat Sustainability Showdown
Common approaches to sustainability on campuses include upgrades to building systems, such as lighting, HVAC and envelope. However influencing the energy-related attitudes and behaviors of individuals represents an alternate approach to energy conservation, and may have impacts that extend well beyond the campus environment. At CSU Chico, a team of students and sustainability leaders led an energy saving competition in two dorms, reducing electrical use by over 27 percent, and winning first place in a national competition against over 100 participating colleges.
The competition, known as the Wildcat Sustainability Showdown, has run for three consecutive years in two campus residence halls, Shasta and Lassen. Each year the program team monitored average energy use for three weeks, and compared the results against a baseline of the previous two weeks, using energy display dashboards from Lucid Design. Awareness of the competition is raised through posters, social media, peer-to-peer methods, and eco-themed events and giveaways.
By engaging and educating incoming students about energy conservation and sustainability, this program may have sustainability impacts that extend far beyond the competition.
During the first year of the competition, student hall residents saved a combined average of 12.7 percent, winning first prize among 16 participating UC and CSU schools in the Campus Conservation Nationals (CNN), a national competition in which nearly 250,000 students participate. In the second year, the two halls reached a combined savings of 23.8 percent, winning the CNN first place nationally. In 2015 the energy savings inched yet higher, to 25.9 percent, to place in the top 10 nationally and first place among competing CSU schools.
Students conduct parties, contests and other events to engage residents in the competition.
The competition is managed with the direction of the campus sustainability coordinator and the involvement of several campus groups. The project leaders use numerous strategies to engage and motivate student residents. First, they recruit 15 to 20 student “eco reps” distributed throughout each hall who act as energy conservation leaders. These hall leaders act as liaisons between the coordinating team and residents, they work to motivate peers by designing and distributing posters and other outreach information, and they organize events such as kick-off parties and themed game nights. They also publicize the competition on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. For their efforts they receive a set of gifts such as T-shirts and Zipcar memberships.
Residence hall "eco reps" act as liaisons between the project team and residents, and work to motivate peers.
Another method for engaging residents is through “eco-resident” certification. The certification includes taking a conservation pledge, recruiting additional students for certification, and reading and discussing with others the Chico State Green Book, a booklet that provides new students with sustainability tips and information on local resources. Upon completion, students may display an eco-resident certificate on their door, and are entered into a raffle for prizes.
After three years of garnering top honors nationally and within California, the program is well known on campus. The competition has engaged three cohorts of eco reps with over 1,200 student residents participating. In the process the competition has influenced the next generation of ecologically minded leaders and community members.