Students compete to reduce energy use in dorms - Ka Leo O Hawaii: NEWS

Students compete to reduce energy use in dorms

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Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 12:00 am

The state of Hawai‘i has made a commitment to being 70 percent reliant on clean energy by 2030.

As a step toward sustainability, this October 1,000 freshmen in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa's Hale Aloha dorms will participate in a three-week energy challenge in the first annual Kukui Cup competition.

"Kukui Cup is trying to help students understand what it would mean in Hawai‘i to have sustainable energy and what they can do to promote and bring about a transformation to our sustainable situation in Hawai‘i," said professor and project leader Philip Johnson.

The Kukui Cup competition is named after the Hawaiian source of natural lighting: the kukui nut. Twenty participating lounges will compete to see which one can use the least energy per week. Every floor will have a smart meter that tracks daily energy consumption, and students will be able to monitor their energy usage online.

Participants will be educated in sustainability while learning to reduce their carbon footprint with informational videos, excursions and workshops.

Over 100 universities in the nation have done dorm energy competitions, but UH's competition is unique. "No university, to our knowledge, has combined installation of the meters, real-time feedback, plus the educational component with the workshops and the excursions," said Johnson.

Excursions will include a beach cleanup on the North Shore with the Surfrider Foundation and a visit to Reppun, an off-the-grid farm. There will be many workshops through Nov. 6, such as "Recycled Fashion Design" with Andy South, a finalist on the last season of Project Runway. The prizes for winners include an iPod, skateboard, Google TV and gift certificates.

The goal of the Kukui Cup is to influence individuals to consume energy wisely and educate students about the current energy situation in Hawai‘i. Long-term targets could be to use this system at different departments within UH, in Hawai‘i public schools, in the community, and eventually at schools on the mainland.

When asked why he felt so strongly about advocating sustainability, Johnson said, "We can't as a society just expect our government to just solve the problems for us. We have to actively participate in defining what it means for Hawai‘i to be sustainable and do that in a way that aligns with principles of aloha and the Hawaiian culture."

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