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Home » Youth

Students compete in power struggle to reduce energy use at school

Submitted by on July 24, 2015 – 4:00 am
Victoria University of Wellington student, Bethany Paterson

Victoria University of Wellington student, Bethany Paterson


University of Victoria


Inspired by the “power of small changes by many people”, Victoria University of Wellington student, Bethany Paterson, is invoking rivalry between Victoria halls of residence to promote change in electricity consumption.


It’s all part of an energy saving competition between Weir House and Te Puni Village—two of the University’s student accommodation facilities—to see which student residence can save the most power compared to the previous year’s usage.

The idea came after the success of a similar pilot project initiated by Bethany during her last year at Cashmere High School in Christchurch.


“We used real-time data to inspire students to reduce energy use at school. Over the course of the school year we saved $50,000,” says Bethany. “I realised there was a similar opportunity here.”


A key objective of the competition is to get students thinking about their everyday habits with energy use and to illustrate the impact collective action can have, even with slight modifications in behaviour.


“It’s about developing a mindset around those little everyday decisions that have no significant impact on your day-to-day life, but over time, and en masse, can result in massive energy and cost reductions,” says Bethany.


“There are lots of things you can do. Instead of boiling a litre of water to make a cup of tea, just boil what you need; turn lights off whenever you leave a room; cut back on daydreaming time in the shower; and open a window instead of using an extractor fan to get the steam out.”


Bethany has managed to secure sponsorship for the trimester-long competition from Meridian Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, Lush and ecostore, all of which are providing a range of prizes.


The money saved from the power reductions will be invested in sustainability initiatives. One option being explored is communal bikes.


Victoria University environmental manager Andrew Wilks, who helped bring Bethany’s idea to life, will be calculating the ongoing savings and broadcasting the results around campus.


“It’s always exciting when motivated students such as Bethany come to you with ideas like this,” says Andrew.


“Because of the initiative shown and the work involved, I also wanted to make sure that Bethany could credit this work toward her degree. So, we’ve incorporated the project as part of an independent research paper.”


The Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association has also collaborated with Bethany on the project, with wellbeing and sustainability officer Rory Lenihan-Ikin remarking that the competition is a great way for first-year students to learn sustainable energy-saving habits before they move into flats.


Bethany is in her second year of double degree in Law, and Ecology and Biodiversity.


For more information contact Ian Letham on 04-463 5105 or ian.letham@vuw.ac.nz  

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