Earth Hour Countdown: Residence students race to zero

Starting today, York students living in the Keele and Glendon residences are being challenged to reduce their carbon footprint as part of the University’s third annual Res Race to Zero challenge.

This year’s competition, which runs through March 28, involves eight Keele campus undergraduate residences and two Glendon residence buildings. In addition, families and graduate students living in the University’s graduate student apartments are being encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint by cutting their energy consumption.

The undergraduates will be led through the competition by residence environmental ambassadors (REAs) who will work with fellow students to help make the challenge a success. Res Race to Zero focuses on modifying actions and encouraging students to take responsibility for their energy footprint.

Each residence has a baseline average weekly kilowatt usage per student based on data gathered from 2010. The challenge for each student will be to do their best to reduce this figure by taking steps that are as simple as turning off their lights before leaving for classes. Other tasks include switching off televisions in house lounges when not in use, putting their computers into energy saving sleep modes and doing whatever they can to cut power consumption in their residence buildings.

This year’s REAs are Laura Andrew (Winters), Zara Anucha (Pond Road), Cassandra Brennan (Bethune), Juhaina Khan (Tatham Hall), Kelly Lui (Glendon), Ramzi Masri (Vanier), Raghav Ramabadran (Calumet), Vaasan Santhanagopalan (Stong), Gabrielle Vaillant (Founders) and Jacyln Volkhammer (Glendon).

Left: Vaasan Santhanagopalan (far left), Cassandra Brennan, Kelly Lui and Juhaina Khan


“The Res Race to Zero is so great because it heightens the sense of awareness within the residence community of the impact we all have on our environment,” says Cassandra Brennan, REA of Bethune Residence. “This year, if I can change even one person’s habits, making them consistently aware of the more sustainable options out there, I will have achieved my goal.”

Right: Raghav Ramabadran (left), Laura Andrew and Zara Anucha

The residence with the largest overall cumulative percentage reduction in energy consumption will receive $2,000. The money will be spent to enhance sustainability in the residence, at York or in the world.

“I am very excited about the third cycle of Res Race to Zero. The first year saw a huge drop in consumption of more than 25 percent. Year two was five per cent better than the previous year,” says Helen Psathas, York’s senior manager of environmental design and sustainability. “This is also great because it shows that simple actions like turning off desktop computers and lights were becoming common practice. What would be wonderful is if students could sustain these changes because it has a huge impact on lowering our consumption of energy.”

Res Race to Zero complements York University’s Energy Management Program, a five-year plan to reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent. In 2010, students living in the Bethune and Winters residence buildings tied for first. They saved enough energy to power the Vanier Residence for one month. In 2009, students in the Calumet Residence finished first in the challenge.

For more information and to view the weekly progress, visit the Res Race to Zero web page on the Yorkw!se website.