Green Amherst Project to Hold "Green Games"
Issue   |   Wed, 02/26/2014 - 01:05

This March, The Association of Amherst Students and the Green Amherst Project will launch the “Green Games,” an environmental sustainability competition among the first year dorm. The six-week long event will continue until April 22, Earth Day.

The first-year dorms will be competing to see which dorm can reduce its paper, water and electrical usage the most over the course of the six weeks. Campus Utilities Engineer Aaron Hayden will be monitoring the energy, paper towel and water usage of each of the dorms. The dorm with the greatest percentage decrease in usage will win a $200 pizza party funded by the AAS.
In a process inspired by “The Hunger Games,” the resident counselors of each dorm will elect two tributes from their dorm to participate in weekly competitions. Although the plans for the activities for the competitions have not been finalized yet, some ideas include outdoor activities that will take advantage of the spring weather, as well as an art-related activity. Tributes can earn points through these activities to increase their dorms’ chances of winning the games.

College staff has played a small yet important role in creating the Green Games. Green Amherst Project members worked with campus engineering in creating an electrical usage monitoring system. Campus engineering also installed a new electricity reader in James Dormitory, which once shared an electricity reader with Stearns Dormitory. The new installation will allow engineering staff to better differentiate the electrical usages of James and Stearns.

The Green Amherst Project has also been talking with Dean of Students Hannah Fatemi on possibly distributing reusable water bottles to all the students.

There will also be efforts to educate students about sustainability as well. The Green Amherst Project will be distributing pamphlets with tips on adopting behaviors such as water conservation and recycling. Tributes will also educate their fellow dorm residents about environmentally conscious behaviors.

Each week of the Green Games will have a theme focusing on a particular environmental issue such as recycling, water conservation and electricity usage. The weekly dorm competitions and educational events will reflect the weekly environmental theme issue.

The program was created by Noah Lerner, AAS Environmental Officer and a Green Amherst Project leader. Lerner said the idea came to him during the fall semester of 2013. Given the large number of first-year members in the Green Amherst Project this year, Lerner thought that there was a significant amount of support within the first-year class for an ambitious project such as the Green Games.

Lerner said the similarity in size and age of infrastructure of the recently-renovated first-year dorms also make them better suited for comparison. But most importantly, the Green Amherst project hopes that the intimate community of the first-year dorms will encourage greater cooperation among dorm residents in the competition.

“Freshmen care about their dorms, and the image of their dorms,” Lerner said. “To get people in Crossett and Stone to participate would be more difficult, since the sense of community isn’t as strong in those dorms.”

New developments in the AAS also helped realize the Games. This year, AAS President George Tepe ’14 sought to increase the influence of the AAS cabinet, an advisory committee that consists of the Environmental Officer, Sexual Respect Officer, Community Organizer and Inclusion Officer. Lerner’s position in the cabinet provided him the support and resources of the AAS to run the Green Games.

Last semester, Tepe asked Lerner to be the Environmental Officer, one of four cabinet member positions that include the Sexual Respect Officer, Community Organizer and Inclusion Officer. Lerner’s position in the cabinet provided him the support and resources of the AAS to run the Green Games. Working with President Tepe and Chief of Staff Liya Rechtman, Lerner selected six first-year senators to organize and collaborate on the program.

The program organizers hope that these competitions will not only promote environmental awareness, but also bring the first-year class closer together. Senators said that they hope first-year students will embrace the chance to meet new people.

“I would say it’s just about awareness and trying to build community,” said Karen Blake ’17, one of the first-year senators involved in the games.

“Starting with the first year class that’s going to be here for three more years is a good trial run and also a good investment for the future,” said Siraj Sindhu ’17, another first-year senator. “I think it’s a great idea all around. It’ll further the Green Amherst Project’s goals of sustainability and hopefully give the entire first-year a chance to bond and get to know each other.”

Lerner and others involved in the Green Games currently do not have plans to expand the event to all Amherst students, but instead hope that the event will continue in the future as a first-year tradition.

“Ideally, the goal is to get every incoming class as first-year to participate or be able to participate in something like it,” Lerner said.

Organizers have been attending weekly meetings over the past month as they finalize plans for the games. The organizers have been generally quiet regarding the games so far, but they say they plan to step up their publicity efforts in the coming week.

“We plan to have some big publicity come out at the beginning of March, but we’re also finding ways to leak the word out deliberately, collectively and carefully so that we slowly build hype or excitement of anticipation in the days preceding,” Sindhu said.

Sindhu said that participation in the games will not be mandatory, although the organizers hope that all first-years will be enthusiastic about joining in on the competition.

“There are things that we’re hoping that everyone does because they’re fun, interactive, engaging, educational and further the goals of sustainability and environmentalism,” Sindhu said. But part of the game is that you want your entire dorm to take part because then you have a better chance to win the game. It’s about cooperation, talking to people, meeting new people.”

Sophie Murguia ’17 contributed reporting.