Powering off pollution

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The PowerOFF challenge is a competition between buildings at the University of Calgary to reduce the energy consumption by turning off lights, reducing heat and limiting water use between Nov. 19 to Dec. 7. 

The U of C has 125 buildings that have an annual utility cost of about $28 million and produce over 240,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. 

The PowerOFF challenge, previously called Cut the Carbs, began at the U of C in 2008. At first, students did not play a large role. This year, the challenge is branching out to include 

The money saved by the reduction of energy use will be donated to the United Way, said U of C sustainability office co-op engagement co-ordinator and third-year political science student Amy Glassman.

“Aside from the obvious, which is reducing energy use on campus, I think it’s important that we spread awareness,” said Glassman. “People are not always aware of how much energy they consume or how much energy the university uses.”

The U of C’s main campus, foothills campus, downtown campus and residence buildings will participate in the challenge.

A new addition to this year’s event is the SustainabilityOn co-ordinators, a team of students who are raising awareness of energy consumption and promoting PowerOFF.

Second-year business student Jessy Cheung is part of the coordination team this year. He has been working to raise awareness by placing stickers on light switches, putting up posters and speaking with students about energy consumption.

“In past years, [PowerOFF] has been at a faculty level, and students were left in the dark about the challenge. This year, we are trying to give more awareness to the students so they can participate,” said Cheung.

Cheung said the Eyes High strategic goal of becoming a top-five research university by 2016 has a focus on sustainability and green practices, and the PowerOFF challenge is an easy way to reduce the university’s footprint.

“Right now, the university has a big push for Eyes High, and one of the pillars is sustainability. This challenge is just a small part of what students, administration and faculty can do to promote better sustainability on campus,” said Cheung.