Students Save 3 Million Pounds of CO2 and 476,000 Gallons of Water during National College Competition

This spring, more than 265,000 students at 109 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada collectively saved over 2.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity—equivalent to averting 3 million pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere and saving $196,000—through the Campus Conservation Nationals 2014 (CCN) contest. Students also saved nearly 476,000 gallons of water, or the equivalent of 1.8 million water bottles. 

The Competition

Student behavior changes make big impact during Campus Conservation Nationals 2014
Student behavior changes make big impact during Campus Conservation Nationals 2014
From Feb. 3 to April 25, students, faculty and staff unplugged unused electronics, took shorter showers and turned off lights in common areas, to see which campus buildings could reduce the most energy & water use. Participants organized events, utilized social media and launched creative marketing campaigns to motivate their peers to take personal action and encourage change in building operations. Through thousands of direct actions and collective effort, CCN participants demonstrated that personal action can significantly reduce energy use and advance the sustainability of their schools.

Top  Energy-Saving Schools

The top 10 schools in electricity reduction were Appalachian State University, Bard College, Berea College, California State University Chico, Dickinson College, Louisiana State University, Loyola University Maryland, Portland State University, Wake Forest University and Western Carolina University, with an average energy reduction of 17.2 percent.

The top five schools in water reduction were Oberlin College, Pomona College, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Wake Forest University, with range of reduction of 4–17 percent.

The Impact

“This tangible mobilization of hundreds of thousands of students reducing energy consumption, promoting sustainability and actively mitigating the effects of climate change shows that the next generation is ready for change and is no longer willing to wait for decision makers to address the issues at hand,” said Hannah Debelius, USGBC Students program manager, the Center for Green Schools at U.S. Green Building Council.

Participating schools used Lucid’s Building Dashboard® to compare performance, share winning strategies and track standings.

“As CCN continues to grow and expand, we are amazed at the impact students and staff are able to make,” said Chelsea Hodge, Lucid director of product engagement. “These students are demonstrating that creating a culture of conservation and inspiring individuals to change their behaviors can significantly reduce their campus’ carbon footprint.”

Nearly half of schools elected to participate in the group competition, competing campus to campus to save energy and water. With 13 group competitions this year made up of schools competing regionally or within standing rivalries, the spirit of competition heated up. Appalachian State University not only won its group competition against Western Carolina University, but both schools were in the top 10 for energy reduction. “We had a lot of fun with Western Carolina through social media and in pointing out different strategies,” said Donna Presnell, communication coordinator, Appalachian State University. “It was a good, friendly competition with them. You can now stop any student on campus and they’ll be able to speak to you about sustainability initiatives on campus.”

Spreading the word on Campus—Poster Contest

An optional CCN 2014 poster contest offered a $500 grand prize and four runner-up prizes to the schools with the most innovative outreach posters. Columbia University won best poster for its efforts to reduce energy in the residence calls — “I commit to power down” — with more than 700 votes from CCN participants. Penn State University won second, third and fourth place for its posters featuring tips to reduce water and energy with eco-friendly washing tips, and Dickinson College came in fifth place with its “Lights Out” poster.

Columbia University's Winning CCN Poster
Columbia University’s Winning CCN Poster

“The poster submissions this year spotlighted the creative and innovative ideas that campuses implemented to get students to compete to reduce energy and water,” said Kristy Jones, senior manager of Campus Ecology at National Wildlife Federation. “One of my favorite posters stated, ‘If Batman can do it in the dark, why we can’t we?’ Students used fun, straight-to-the point taglines to show small behavioral changes can make a positive impact for humans and wildlife.”

With generous support from United Technologies Corporation, founding sponsor of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, CCN gave students and staff an opportunity to organize and make immediate and lasting impacts on their school’s carbon emissions and campus culture. “It is exciting to see students and staff engaging with energy and water use on their campus,” noted Taylor McAdam of The Alliance to Save Energy. “A huge opportunity, both educational and financial, is missed when students aren’t incorporated into campus utility use.”

NWF’s Campus Ecology Program, a partner in the competition, has been working with colleges and universities for more than 25 years to advance climate action and sustainability on campuses, and to encourage the next generation to seek innovative ways to create a more just and sustainable future for humans and wildlife.

To learn more about the program, visit

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Published: May 5, 2014