Are #UCOOL as the Cool Campus Challenge?
In the race to steer clear of climate crisis, the UC aims to reach Carbon Neutrality by 2025 and is piloting a new engagement tool for campus communities. The Cool Campus Challenge is a competition between twelve University of California schools to see which campus’s students can reduce their carbon footprint the most. In addition, Cal of course has the ultimate goal of being carbon neutral by 2025. If you are looking
for simple ways to practice sustainability, sign up and start earning points for your school! The challenge only lasts until December 10th, and earning points for Berkeley can be as easy as flipping a switch.
The Cool Campus Challenge was launched this year in order to involve members of UC communities in the effort to achieve UC President Janet Napolitano’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative. Daniel Kammen, the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory here at Berkeley, provided the tools for the challenge. He originally developed a tool to calculate the energy footprint of entire cities, and now the Cool Campus Challenge applies his CoolClimate Calculator to individual campuses.
“Competitive” is certainly a key word to describe this challenge. Have you ever not been able to put down your phone or controller because you had to have the highest score on a game? The Cool Campus Challenge is equally impossible to give up once you’ve started. Here’s how it works: every activity you complete gives you a certain amount of points, depending on its difficulty level and how early in the challenge you performed it. With every activity you verify, you are able to watch your point level rise, see how you are ranked compared to other Berkeley students, and learn how many pounds of carbon dioxide you have saved! Not only that, but you also get a cool nickname. (I don’t want to brag, but I am officially a magician!)
The tasks that each participant completes are not difficult ones. In fact, a lot of them are things UC Berkeley students do every day, like shutting off computer monitors when they are not in use, or taking public transportation. The main purpose of the challenge is not only to reveal simple ways to live sustainably, but also to encourage each member to see opportunities for sustainability wherever they may be. When members complete small, simple tasks in their every day lives, those same members continue to look for more small challenges they can make for themselves. For example, it is often impossible to avoid air travel. But you can make the effort to fly on an airline that uses more sustainable fuel sources.
The Challenge’s main purpose is to educate. Quizzes and graphics allow participants to discover the scope of their carbon footprint, their company’s carbon footprint, and their school’s carbon footprint. These quizzes even point out specific areas that need to be change, like food waste or shopping habits. An example is the Berkeley Energy Dashboards, which tracks the electricity usage of each building on campus so that you can see how they compare.
But is this challenge actually making a difference? Lindsey Agnew, a Berkeley senior and an employee at the Office of Sustainability says, “Yes. One person acting alone – for example, one person wearing a sweater instead of using a personal heater- feels like it’s not doing anything. But multiply that by 14,000 across 12 campuses- that’s a really, really big deal.” And she’s right. Right now, the challenge has a total of around 14,000 participating members, 1,440 of which are from Berkeley. Lindsey Agnew admits that the Cool Campus Challenge, “is a step (in the right direction), but it is not the only step.” The Office of Sustainability, the ASUC, Cal Dining, and various other departments here at Cal are taking big steps to make sure that Berkeley is carbon neutral by 2025. For example, more solar panels are being installed, the campus vehicles are making the switch to fossil free fuel sources, and myPower tracks the energy usage of each department.
Currently, Berkeley is number six in the rankings of campuses who have saved the most carbon. If you want to see Berkeley take first place, sign up for the challenge today! There is only a month of the challenge left and some of the tasks are probably ones you are already completing daily. If you want to see your home, school, or business become a little more sustainable, this challenge is a large step in the right direction.
An opportunity to experience the progress towards carbon neutrality on our campus is the Cool Energy Expo!
To learn more about the Cool Campus Challenge, visit this website.
Help spread the word here!