Competition encourages sustainability
Students on the Hill dined in darkness on April 22 during the kickoff of “Do It In the Dark” Week, a series of events and challenges promoting environmental awareness and activism on campus aimed at encouraging students to become more conscious of their ecological footprint.
“Do It In the Dark” is centered around a week-long competition between dorms, aiming to reduce electricity and water consumption through simple sustainable solutions that people often neglect. These sustainability measures can include shutting off the lights when leaving a room, unplugging electronics that are not in use and reducing the amount of time spent in the shower.
Spearheaded by anthropology major Danielle Sheppard ’11, the project was created partially for an engaged environmental anthropology class with a focus on activism and advocacy. Sheppard said the goal of her project was to find “social-action-based solutions to climate change.”
“Do It In the Dark” stemmed from a survey Sheppard ran on sustainability on campus that aimed at measuring the College’s collective environmental consciousness and at determining the students’ attitudes toward ecological endeavors. The results of the survey indicated that many students lack adequate environmental awareness.
“The whole idea behind this project is challenging complacency and I would really like to impress upon the student body that sustainability is achievable,” Sheppard said. “Recycling the occasional plastic bottle is not necessarily all you can do. There are so many other things you can do that make as much, if not more, of a difference.”
Responding to the disconnect between the student body and institutional commitments to sustainability, Sheppard sought to place more environmental responsibility in the students’ hands. The competition is measured by student participation according to the “Do It In the Dark” pledge that students signed in Pulver Pavilion or with members of their Hall Staff. Upon pledging to be more environmentally conscious, participating students received a doorknob hanger that listed tips for minimizing their negative impact on the environment. The dorm with the highest percentage of students participating in the “Do It In the Dark” initiative will enjoy access to a waterslide on Chapel Hill before the end of the year.
The consumption of the average American college student is astronomically high because, even on campuses that emphasize environmentally-friendly lifestyles, few people are aware of the specific lifestyle changes involved in green living. “I hope the project will point out that small actions make a big difference and that students will be conscious of their behaviors toward sustainability,” Sheppard said.
“Do It In the Dark” Week began Friday, April 22 and runs through Saturday, April 30. The results of the competition will be made public through the General Announcements emails. Although the campus-wide competition is only one week long, Sheppard hopes it will encourage continued environmental awareness among members of the College’s the administration, as well as among students themselves. “Little actions matter,” Sheppard said, “and we cannot just be satisfied with institutional commitments to sustainability. They are not enough.”