Ryan Lichtenstein never considered himself much of an environmentalist.
But after landing a summer internship with a Washington company that specializes in marketing energy-efficient companies, Lichtenstein, a junior from Carol Stream studying radio-television, found himself in a position to make a difference and find a passion.
As part of his internship with SmartPower, Lichtenstein is responsible for helping the university participate in the company’s America’s Greenest Campus contest, the first nationwide contest among colleges to reduce the carbon footprints of its students, faculty and staff – a contest that could net the university up to $20,000.
‘SIU is a big environmental school, and I think we can get a lot done,’ Lichtenstein said. ‘Part of my internship is to make sure that SIU does the contest right. This isn’t exactly the field I want to go into, but it’s a good place for a kid to do something and make his mark on the world.’
The contest is broken into three phases: $5,000 to the school with the most participants, $5,000 to the school with the largest percentage of carbon emissions reduced and $10,000 to the winner of the SmartPower Energy Smart Ad Challenge, where participants can create their own video advertisement to raise awareness about energy efficiency.
As of Wednesday, SIUC ranked 28th in total members (33) and 27th in carbon emissions reduced (3.99 percent). There are 451 universities competing.
The contest runs through Oct. 5 and winners will be announced Dec. 5.
‘You learn through the contest and the software how to tweak your daily actions,’ said Andrew Vorris, communications manager with SmartPower. ‘Some are simple and really pertain to a college lifestyle. Not leaving your cell phone charger plugged in all the time. Using power strips for video games. Things that sound minimal in the scheme of things but are actually not.’
Vorris, an SIUC alumus, said the contest has been a grassroots effort that has already gathered more than 12,000 participants nationwide.
In SIUC’s case, both Vorris and Lichtenstein have reached out to SIUC senior Jon Dyer, who has led numerous green initiatives on campus including the university’s first student green fee.
‘It’s really perfect timing (for the contest),’ Dyer said. ‘Especially because of the green fee. Students put a lot of effort into something that was going to tax them and was something they would pay in to. So it makes sense to get money for our school from somebody else now.’
Vorris said the contest is more of an individual learning process than anything.
Once participants register, they can pledge to reduce their carbon footprints by implementing daily energy saving activities.
Once a participant pledges to an activity, the contest’s software shows them how much money they save doing the activity and how much carbon emissions they have reduced.
‘How often do you have an idea of how it really helps? We really don’t get a sense of that,’ Vorris said. And that is the sincere muscle behind this software and contest and what we are trying to do here.’