Res Race to Zero saves more than 31,000 kilowatt hours

Simple steps mean a lot when it comes to climate change.

During the month of March, students in eight undergraduate residences on Keele campus and two on the Glendon campus took many simple steps as part of a collective effort to reduce their personal energy consumption.

The students were competing in York University’s second annual Res Race to Zero challenge, which saw students in the 10 residences work together to reduce their personal carbon footprint, and in turn, that of their residence. Led by 9 residence environmental ambassadors, the 2,500 students competed against each other and tried, in true competitive spirit, to bring home a personal best with respect to energy saved.

Right: Residence Environmental Ambassadors leading the Res Race to Zero challenge are, clockwise from the bottom, Farrahnaz Bulsara, Madeline Neff, Adellah Chimbindi, Jason Vuu, Yulia Lobacheva, James Marzotto and Ives Spritzer

“I’m sure the students must have been living in the dark or studying by candlelight,” joked Helen Psathas, York’s senior manager of environmental design & sustainability.

After crunching the numbers, Psathas revealed that the energy saved by month’s end amounted to 31,029 kilowatt hours (kWh), or enough energy to power the 13-floor Vanier Residence for one month. The measurement of energy consumption during the challenge for each residence building included the average kilowatt usage per person by residence as compared with last year’s Res Race to Zero student competitors. The final tally equals a decrease across the University of 5.40 per cent or a reduction of 8.89 kWh per person over March 2009.

On Friday, April 9, Psathas and York Vice-President Students Rob Tiffin visited Winters Residence to award the first prize to not one, but two residences. The students of Winters Residence and Bethune Residence on the Keele campus achieved the most significant reductions in energy consumption.

"It is really delightful to be here today," said Psathas. "Two years ago, we started Res Race to Zero and the real story is about the collective efforts of York students. Last year’s winner Calumet Residence had very good results and we were sure the students were living in the dark, so you can imagine my delight when the results surpassed last year’s totals. All of the undergrad residences did very well."

"Let me just add my personal congratulations to Bethune and Winters," said Tiffin. "A survey done [recently] by the Rockefeller Institute that looked at green initiatives across North America and York received a B+, which was the highest mark.

"Four years ago, York established a Sustainability Council and that has grown into the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, so sustainability very much on the minds of all of us at York University. Congratulations to you all, well done!" said Tiffin.

On hand to receive the awards were Bethune Residence environmental ambassador Lani Etzkorn and Winters Residence green don Coni Davila. The $2,000 award will be split between the two winning residences. Students living in Bethune Residence achieved a reduction of 17.82 kWh per person over statistics from one year ago, while students living in Winters Residence achieved a reduction of 14.70 kWh per person over the same period one year ago.

Above: Res Race to Zero challenge winners receive their plaques from York VP Students Rob Tiffin. From left, Lani Etzkorn, Bethune Residence environmental ambassador; Rob Tiffin; and Coni Davila, Winters Residence green don.

The decision was made to share the prize due to unforeseen circumstances – a three-day power outage in Bethune. Winning residences are considering options such as low-flow showerheads, which will be funded by the $2,000 prize.

For the first time, residences on York’s Glendon campus participated in the challenge and demonstrated their energy reduction efforts from Week 1 to Week 4. Hilliard Residence, which has 215 rooms, saw a weekly consumption per person drop by 1.31 kWh and the 189-room Wood Residence by 2.25 kWh per person. This data will serve as a benchmark for next year’s competition.

Res Race to Zero complements York’s Energy Management Program, a five-year plan to reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent. For more information and to view the competition’s statistics, visit Yorkwise, the event sponsor, or the Res Race to Zero Web site.