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The Greencup Challenge… Does it Work?

It is impossible to be at Deerfield and miss the Green Cup Challenge. We hear about it at school meeting and lunch and are reminded of it constantly when stumbling around pitch-black dorms. For the month of the challenge, Green Cup is life. But is the challenge 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, and saved 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. However, the picture painted by this one month contest might not be the best way to get students involved.

According to environmental proctor Charlotte McLaughry ’11, the Green Cup Challenge takes only electricity consumption into consideration. This means that 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 a month, from January 21 to February 24. It is the most widely-known environmental initiative on campus, and yet it represents only about one eighth of the school year. Despite the hard work of the environmental proctors, many students simply don’t place a high priority on living sustainably outside of the Green Cup Challenge.

This is something many proponents of sustainability on campus struggle with. “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.

According to Mr. Fry, “It’s easy to forget that something as simple as turning off a switch can save energy and money. If every student of our 634 does something, that is definitely going to make a difference.” 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. Hopefully this year, however, the Green Cup Challenge will have a lasting effect upon the Deerfield community after February 24 has passed.

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