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Program promotes Earth-friendly competition

USF will take another step toward saving energy this semester with the new “ConservaBull” program, which aims to reduce the electricity and water usage in 14 residence halls.

ConservaBull, which starts today and ends Nov. 3, will promote friendly competition between the residence halls, rewarding the hall with the greatest reduction in energy consumption. Residents of the winning hall will have the option of each receiving a T-shirt or each being entered into a drawing to win an iPod.

The program’s implementation is part of USF’s attempt to become more environmentally friendly. Creators said they hope the program will slow the amount of greenhouse gasses produced on campus and teach students greener habits.

The decrease in energy consumption will be based on readings from the previous year.

The project resulted from collaboration among several USF entities, but began with architecture and community design graduate student Christopher Cox. Cox said he developed the idea by observing similar projects at other campuses across the country, such as Stanford University.

Cox brought his idea to Emerging Green Builders (EGB), a student group he belongs to that advocates green building and sustainability in the Tampa Bay area. The group is collaborating with Physical Plant, USF Housing and Residential Education and the USF Sustainability Initiative on the project.

“Buildings consume a large portion of our energy because we’ve had unlimited resources for so long, and it becomes unconscious how much energy we use,” Cox said.

All residence halls — even those not competing — posted tips for reducing energy and water consumption. Physical Plant will provide weekly energy-use updates on the ConservaBull Web site, ctr.usf.edu/egb/conservabull. Students can then monitor where each of the 14 residence halls stand in the rankings.

“What a lot of this comes down to is students turning up their thermostats or just making a habit of turning off the lights,” Cox said.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings give off nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions every year.

If ConservaBull is successful, it will expand to all of the residence halls and potentially the entire campus, said Kyle Schafer of EGB.

Raising people’s awareness of their energy consumption was the main goal of the project, Cox said. Students living in the dorms now have helpful reminders of the small things that can be done to save energy.

It is unclear whether the initiative will save USF money. Cox said the amount of money saved by the participating halls can’t be estimated until energy readings are made after the first month.

Students have reacted positively to the program.

“It usually takes someone to point out a habit you’ve had for a while in order to change it,” said Phil Gaiser, a student living in one of the participating halls. “I think we definitely need to start paying attention to what’s going on around us.”