By Kabyl Utley ’24 and Audrey Rodgers ’23
Q: What is AC Unplugged?
A: AC Unplugged is an annual energy saving competition hosted by THINK, pitting the four traditional residence halls at Austin College against each other — and themselves — to reduce their energy use throughout the month of October. The event aims to help students lower their energy consumption, make better usage habits, AND benefit the local community through charitable donations made by THINK on behalf of contest winners.
Q: How do you win the competition and what is the prize?
A: THINK records baseline data for each residence hall at the end of September, then uses that baseline to graph changes in energy use overall and per individual throughout October. The residence hall that reduces their consumption the most from the baseline is awarded the top prize. The prize for first place is $300, second place is $250, third place is $200, and fourth place is $150. All halls cooperatively donate their prize money to a local charity of their choice at the end of the competition. The first-place winner is also awarded the official Thinking Green Championship Belt, along with bragging rights for next year’s competition.
Q: Which residence hall won the 2022 competition?
A: Baker Hall narrowly took first place over Dean Hall and Caruth, last year’s victor. Baker Hall residents reduced their energy consumption by nearly 60 percent compared to baseline data over the course of the competition. Nearly 4,000 kWh of energy savings were recorded for Baker alone. Baker donated their $300 prize to the Grayson County Crisis Center.
Q: Why is saving energy important? What are the benefits?
A: Saving energy is important for the environment for various reasons: it can help lessen carbon emissions, reduce pollutants in the air and water, and conserve vital natural resources. Current energy production often requires the burning of fossil fuels. By reducing our overall energy usage, we are effectively decreasing the amount of energy needed to be produced, resulting in a more sustainable system.
Q: What are some ways that students can reduce their energy use?
A: We’re glad you asked! Overconsumption of energy is a big contributor to climate change. According to the EPA, 40 percent of all energy consumed in the United States is used for electricity. Reducing your use of electricity is essential for reducing your environmental footprint. In college, it’s easy to get caught up in your school work and social life and disregard your impact. However, there are many simple ways in which you can alter your behavior that have beneficial impacts on the environment. Here are six easy ways to keep saving:
Flip the switch! It is so simple, yet so effective. Ensure your lights are off when not in use. You could even opt out of using artificial light entirely by opening your blinds during the day and using natural light instead. You could also consider using more energy efficient light bulbs, such as LEDs, and rely on lamps for light during the night.
Unplug (literally) Contrary to what you may think, electronic devices still use energy when they’re plugged in, even if they aren’t in use. Unplugging lamps, TVs, laptops, and other electronics can help conserve energy. Using power strips could make this even easier — just flip the off switch, and it’ll power down all your devices at once! Also, it isn’t necessary to keep your phone or laptop plugged in overnight. Just make sure your device is fully charged before you go to bed, so you can keep it unplugged through the night.
Use cold water Using cold water instead of hot water helps conserve energy by reducing the amount of energy required to heat it. Taking cold showers or washing your items in cold water is a good way to implement this. You could also reduce the amount of time you spend in the shower if you are using hot water. A fun way to do this can be by putting on music while you’re in the shower and getting out when the first or second song is over.
Skip the AC, open a window! Instead of using your air conditioner, open a window! Not only will it help conserve electricity, but also your energy bill. To make it easier, dress for the weather. In the winter, pile up under some blankets or wear a sweater inside if you get cold. In the summer, stick to lighter clothing or turn on a fan. Electric heaters, anyone?
Take a hike (to class) Here at Austin College, we are lucky to have an easily walkable campus. Considering it is so small, walking to class is easy. It can decrease your energy consumption and increase your overall physical wellbeing. Driving to classes increases the amount of emissions cars put into the atmosphere, as well as how much money you’re spending on gas. According to the CDC, spending at least 150 minutes doing physical activity per week significantly reduces your risk for many chronic diseases. Many college students struggle to find time for physical activity during the school year, so walking to classes is an easy way to ensure you’re getting those steps in. There are so many benefits to walking!
Change your laundry habits There are many ways we can change our habits when it comes to doing laundry that can reduce our environmental footprints significantly. Spacing out how often you do your laundry can not only decrease your energy use, but also your water usage. Instead of doing frequent, small loads of laundry, just do big loads less often. This can save the amount of time you spend on laundry as well. You can also skip the dryer! Letting your clothes air dry keeps them in good shape, so they last longer and it doesn’t require any energy.