Electricity and Water Conservation on College and University Campuses | Standards Michigan

Electricity and Water Conservation on College and University Campuses


Electricity and Water Conservation on College and University Campuses

November 30, 2021

Electricity and Water Conservation on College and University Campuses…

John E. Petersen – Cynthia M. Frantz – Md. Rumi Shammin – Tess M. Yanisch – Evan Tincknell – Noel Myers

Oberlin College


Abstract. Campus Conservation Nationals” (CCN) is a recurring, nation-wide electricity and water-use reduction competition among dormitories on college campuses. We conducted a two year empirical study of the competition’s effects on resource consumption and the relationship between conservation, use of web technology and various psychological measures. Significant reductions in electricity and water use occurred during the two CCN competitions examined (n = 105,000 and 197,000 participating dorm residents respectively). In 2010, overall reductions during the competition were 4% for electricity and 6% for water. The top 10% of dorms achieved 28% and 36% reductions in electricity and water respectively. Participation was larger in 2012 and reductions were slightly smaller (i.e. 3% electricity). The fact that no seasonal pattern in electricity use was evident during non-competition periods suggests that results are attributable to the competition. Post competition resource use data collected in 2012 indicates that conservation behavior was sustained beyond the competition. Surveys were used to assess psychological and behavioral responses (n = 2,900 and 2,600 in 2010 and 2012 respectively). Electricity reductions were significantly correlated with: web visitation, specific conservation behaviors, awareness of the competition, motivation and sense of empowerment. However, participants were significantly more motivated than empowered. Perceived benefits of conservation were skewed towards global and future concerns while perceived barriers tended to be local. Results also suggest that competitions may be useful for “preaching beyond the choir”–engaging those who might lack prior intrinsic or political motivation. Although college life is distinct, certain conclusions related to competitions, self-efficacy, and motivation and social norms likely extend to other residential settings.

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