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Kill-a-Watt Sustainability Competition 2013

In January 2013, the residence halls participated in Kill-a-watt, an annual creation care awareness program and energy competition. The aims of the program were to foster a mindset of sustainability amongst residents of the college’s 7 dorms. Students earned “points” by conserving electricity and participating in various program elements.

Students “DREAM” (Dorm Room Environmental Awareness Movement) certified their rooms by eliminating extra appliances, unplugging cords not in use, having plants, or using natural light instead of electricity (For the first time, DREAM certifications this year were entirely web-based, reducing paper use significantly!). Students, faculty, and staff also participated in “Lifestyle Challenges”, trying out a new sustainable habit like going without cars, meat, dryers, bottled drinks, or room refrigerators for all of interim.
Students participated in educational programming in both the residence and dining halls, learning about sustainable habits and how they applied to life at Calvin. Student leaders organized a number of campus-wide and residence hall-based educational events related to creation care, such as faculty lectures, plant-potting, clothing swaps and vegan food tasting. The dining halls also offered new meatless options and displayed signs pointing out alternative protein sources, for the students were seeking to eat less meat.

Many students also received points for attendinga January Series talk by W.Dwight Armstrong, the CEO of the FFA, and a lecture entitled “Brown Girl Farming” by Natasha Bowens, a farmer of color who has traveled extensively to learn the story of farmers of color all over the U.S. and keeps a photo-documentary  of her journeys on her website.

A distinctive feature of programming this year was the substantial involvement of Campus Ministries in Kill-a-Watt programming. Chapel and L.O.F.T services for the entire month enabled students to explore the Christian call towards environmental stewardship. Moreover, an interactive Bible-Study enabled students to explore practical aspects of environmental justice. In the residence halls, students participated in creation themed dorm-worship services.

Over two hundred students opted to be vegan, or give up the use of cars as transport for an entire month.  Residents of Kalsbeek-Huizenga van Reken decreased their electricity consumption by over 12%, but their effort was in vain as Noordewier VanderWerp won the entire kill-a-watt competition by collecting an average of 35 points/person. As a fitting conclusion to the event, the hall leadership of NVW opted to put their prize money towards causes furthering sustainability in their dorm. For more information, visit:

Kill-a-Watt 2013 Executive Summary

Kill-a-watt is a creation-care awareness program designed as an inter-hall competition during interim, though it reaches beyond to the broader campus community as well. Students earned “points” by participating in program elements, decreasing their hall’s electricity, and writing about what they learned at events.

Program elements:

Green-Out Event

  • Students were encouraged to wear green on the first day of kill-a-watt in support and awareness of sustainability initiatives.

Kick-off Event

  • Over 500 students attended the kick-off event which featured Calvin’s very own Residence Hall Directors and the IMPROV team.

Black-Out Event

  • Hall residents convened in the basements of their dorms to play games in the dark for an hour. They were encouraged to turn off the lights in their rooms for the hour. Of the 994 rooms on campus, a staggering 91% of the rooms had lights turned off.

 “DREAM”Certification (Dorm Room Environmental Awareness Movement)

  • Students got their rooms “DREAM certified” by taking a survey to verify the sustainability of their living routines. The survey addressed topics of recycling, energy use, consumerism, environmental awareness and education. For a change, this year, DREAM Certification forms were entirely web-based. Trained DREAM team members from each dorm’s CLC talked through questionnaires with students and approved completed surveys by the use of a secret password. (See attached “DREAM” questionnaire).
  • Points were awarded according to a pre-assigned rubric, classifying students by Platinum (21), Gold (83), Silver (199), or Bronze (138) awards. In addition to the 441 awards given, many students who attempted the certification scored too low for an award.

“Lifestyle Challenges”

  • Students committed to trying new sustainable lifestyle habits for the entire interim. On average, hall residents earned 17.5 points/person. (See attached Lifestyle Challenge brochure):
    • 1 Point Challenges (1671 total challenges):
      • Turn off water while brushing teeth
      • Use no Styrofoam for the month
      • Use only reusable shopping-bags for the month
    • 5 Point Challenges (1324 total challenges):
      • Use no disposable bottles/cans
      • Unplug room fridge for the month
      • Use only one plate and one cup/dining hall meal
      • Laundry only on cold (dark colors/woolens) setting
      • Hang-dry washed clothes.
    • 10 Point Challenges (1229 total challenges):
      • Shower less than 20 minutes/week
      • Be vegetarian for the month
      • Limit trash to one room trash can in the month
      • Less than 3 hours of room light usage/day
      • Carpool to all events
    • 20 Point Challenges (236 total challenges):
      • Be vegan for the month
      • Use no car for the month.

Perfect Plate Event

  • By participating in interactive challenges, students in the dining halls learned about what a sustainable and healthy meal looks like.

Dining Hall Initiatives

  • Dining halls agreed to offer more meatless, vegan and vegetarian options during January.
  • Table tents explained sustainable initiatives in the dining hall.
  • Non-meat foods that offered protein were identified and labeled with laminated cards that explained how much protein was available from that particular food.

Bible Study

  • An engaging Bible Study explored the call for Christians to pursue justice in all of their personal involvements. It provided further resources and tips on sustainable living.

Residence Hall Events

  • Each residence hall also planned 2 in-hall events, related to creation care, organized by each hall’s student leaders, using the Kill-a-watt resource guide (See attached “CLC Resource Guide”). Programs included:
    • Faculty lectures
    • Plant-potting
    • Documentaries
    • Dorm Worship

All-campus Events

  • Kick Off Event (with Resident Directors and IMPROV)
  • Brown Girl Farming (with guest speaker, Natasha Bowens)
  • Feeding the World, January Series lecture with W. Dwight Armstrong (January Series tap-in)
  • Princess Mononoke SAO Film tap-in.
  • Chapel & LOFT Services Daily services focused on the Christian obligation to Creation-Care.

Mass Communication (Posters & Brochure):

  • Posters and emails focused on communicating Kill-a-watt program elements and a theological rationale for creation care. Facebook posts and a creative website conveyed further details.

Planning structure: Sustainability intern Anand Divakaran and RD Tera Dent supervised a group of 12 Sustainability Coordinators who were responsible for different elements of Kill-a-Watt.

Assessment: A brief survey was sent to all on-campus students, and 150 responded.

    • Over 75% of respondents said that they planned on continuing to strive towards a life practice of environmental sustainability and over 80% said that Kill-a-watt helped them reflect on how their choices impacted others.
    • Dream Certification & Lifestyle Challenges continue to be the most effective tools for helping students learn about sustainability. This may be because these programs require active engagement and enjoy the highest participation numbers.
    • The addition of the partnership with Campus Ministries offered a well-accepted component to programming, allowing students to explore the relationship between their faith and sustainability.

Kill-a-watt’s Facebook Page:
Kill-a-watt’s Webpage: