NYUnplugged encourages energy conservation

Graphic by Rachel Pham
Graphic by Rachel Pham

The NYU community had an energy-saving start to Earth Week with the annual event NYUnplugged, a competition among residence halls to reduce electricity use. NYUnplugged, which ran from April 15 to 22, resulted in community-wide savings of 35,195 kilowatt hours.

Carlyle Court residence hall took the top spot with a 35 percent reduction in electricity use.

Started in 2008, the competition allows students to take a proactive stance on environmental issues and is a part of the university’s efforts to reach its goal of a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2017.

“NYUnplugged is meant not only as a competition to reduce energy consumption among the residence halls, but it also serves as an educational campaign on energy reduction for all NYU students living on campus,” said Christopher James, account executive of public affairs.

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This year’s competition focused on vampire power — electricity that is used when appliances or electronics are powered off but still using energy.

“Unplugged is a great opportunity to engage students about the various issues surrounding energy consumption in the United States,” said Thomas Boman, Wagner Environmental Policy and Action president. “Energy, especially electricity, is so pervasive in our society that usually we forget we’re even using it.”

Coral Towers residence hall placed second with a reduction of 20.9 percent, and Greenwich Hotel residence hall came in third with an 11.8 percent decrease.

Steve To, Greenwich Hotel’s assistance director, said the residence hall enforced measures so students became more engaged with sustainability efforts.

“I think it took the students by surprise when they noticed the lights dimmed for a week, and it made them ask questions, which we believe to be the starting point of this type of education,” To said.

By cutting down on energy use there could also be an economic benefit.

“It’s a lot cheaper for us to prevent environmental degradation than to remediate it, and everyone enjoys a lower utility bill,” Boman said.

Environmental studies professor Julianne Warren said that although reducing energy consumption is needed and NYUnplugged allows students to participate, new tactics are important to promote global climate justice.

“We also need to get our university to participate in a growing national movement of divestment from the fossil fuel industry,” she said.

Most dorms cut their energy use, but some showed an increase. Weinstein, Second Street, University Hall and Seventh Street residence halls all used more electricity during NYUnplugged.

Neela Qadir is a deputy university editor. Email her at [email protected]

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