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Annual Eco-Olympics fosters green living

Freshmen partcipating in the annual Eco-Olympics learn how to compost leftover food at the Marketplace Monday afternoon. The competition aims to promote sustainable living among East Campus residents.
Freshmen partcipating in the annual Eco-Olympics learn how to compost leftover food at the Marketplace Monday afternoon. The competition aims to promote sustainable living among East Campus residents.

As Cameron Crazies paint themselves Duke blue for basketball season, freshmen are also embracing another color—green.

ThroughOctober, freshmen can engage in the Eco-Olympics, a waste and energy reduction competition between East Campus dormitories. Hosted by the Environmental Alliance, the Eco-Olympics comprise a series of events that educate students about sustainable living.

“Because they are freshmen, we can get them involved with saving energy and learning about environmental issues facing the world very early on,” said EA co-President Ben Soltoff, a sophomore. “We introduce them to practices that they can keep doing throughout the rest of their four years at Duke.”

Dorms gain points for reducing energy, recycling and attending Eco-Olympics events.

Every week, EA gets metered energy readings from the Facilities Management Department. To calculate per-capita energy reduction, each dorm’s data is compared to its baseline reading from September.

To award points for recycling, EA counts the number of recyclables in trash bins on a random day. The fewer number of recyclables, the higher the score.

Dorms can also gain points by having residents attend Eco-Olympics events, and students can win individual prizes such as restaurant gifts cards, an iPod or a mountain bike.

Carbon racing, held Oct. 8, allowed students to calculate their carbon footprints. Last Tuesday, 169 students pledged to be vegetarians for a day. A day later, EA held a bottled-tap water taste test to observe the national day of action for the Take Back the Tap campaign, which seeks to reduce bottled water consumption. At the Marketplace Monday, EA educated students about composting with worms and publicized the Marketplace’s composting capabilities.

“The Marketplace can compost everything other than plastic,” Soltoff said. “So if you leave [food] on your plate and put your plate on the conveyor belt, it should all end up in compost. We have a composting facility in the Duke Forest.”

EA will raise awareness this week for the 350 campaign, an international movement to address climate change. According to the 350 campaign Web site, 350 parts per million is the safe limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Right now we are at 389 [ppm],” said EA Co-president Mikael Owunna, a sophomore. “The 350 campaign is a push to get people to reduce their carbon emissions, so that we can get back to 350.”

To prepare for the 350 campaign’s International Day of Climate Action Oct. 24, EA will table on the Plaza and at the Marketplace this week.

“We are going to be giving away arm bands that say ‘350’ on them to educate students about the campaign,” Owunna said.

Students can also write letters to Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., to encourage her to support the Boxer-Kerry bill, which would create clean jobs and energy, Owunna said.

Additional events include a community garden work day and an Oct. 29 lecture by Larry Crowder, Stephen Toth professor of marine biology and an expert on sustainable fishing from the Duke Marine Lab.

Dorm standings will be posted in the Marketplace next month. The winning dorm’s residents will receive T-shirts and an ice cream party, which President Richard Brodhead has attended in past years, Soltoff said.

Freshman Krystal Mak has participated in many of the Eco-Olympics events. She said she likes the Eco-Olympics because it makes people more environmentally conscious.

“It is great because it raises awareness about environmental issues in a more interactive manner,” Mak said. “Even if students don’t end up changing their lifestyle and making better decisions in terms of the environment, at the very least it still raises their awareness.”

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