Ecolympics Underway, Expands Programming

Adiel Kaplan, Staff Writer

The glowing energy orbs around campus have been a little greener over the last two weeks as the Office of Environmental Sustainability kicks off its sixth annual Ecolympics.

Ecolympics, which began April 5 and will run through April 26, is Oberlin’s three-week- long dorm energy-reduction competition, accompanied by daily events. This past Monday, a lecture titled “Environmental & LGBTQ Activism and the Bio-diversity of Sexuality” by eco- feminist activist and author Pattrice Jones was co-sponsored by the Drag Ball Committee, marking the first year of any such partnership.

But it’s not just Drag Ball: this year Ecolympics is co-sponsoring events in partnership with organizations like Oberlin Shansi and Solarity. This is something new for the organizers of Ecolympics, and they plan to continue collaborating in the future.

“That’s [part of] what’s been different, the new partnerships that we’ve made, and how that’s kind of formed the events that are taking place … as well as just the number of events that we’ve had,” said Bridget Flynn, Sustainability Coordinator for the Office of Environmental Sustainability.

Other student groups have already approached the organizers about co-sponsoring events next year.

Ecolympics will host roughly 30 events this year, up from last year’s 23. The organiz- ers said they are hoping to plan even more events for next year.

Ecolympics began at Oberlin in 2005 when Oberlin became one of the first colleges to organize a dorm resource reduction competition in the country.

Three years ago, Ecolympics became part of a larger national energy reduction competition when the Campus Conservation Nationals were created. In many ways, the Campus Conservation Nationals were inspired by Oberlin’s competition; Lucid Design Group, one of the main companies that organizes Campus Conservation Nationals, was founded by Oberlin alumni who were involved in Oberlin’s inaugural competition.

Lucid Design Group was created in 2004 by Michael Murray, OC ’04; Vladi Shunturov, OC ’05; Gavin Platt, OC ’06; and John Petersen, OC ’88 and associate professor of Environmental Studies, as they were in the process of developing the orb technology used to monitor energy use in dorms around campus.

According to Flynn, Oberlin has one of the most sophisticated energy use monitoring systems of any college or university, because this technology was developed at Oberlin and continues to be improved by Petersen’s ongoing research.

This marks the first year in which the OES has taken complete charge of Ecolympics. In past years, the contest was run by the Environmental Studies department and overseen by Petersen, who is on leave this semester. This year, the events, raffles and prizes of Ecolympics were organized by Flynn and her team of student employees, beginning in November of last year.

One of their main efforts this year was to make the raffle more accessible and have better prizes, many of which were provided by the Green Edge Fund. Going to an event automatically qualifies you for the raffle, and there are additional prizes for students who go to the most events and the dorm that has the greatest number of residents who attend.

“We funded a few events, like the reusing your clothing event, but most importantly our biggest grant to them was for the prizes for the dorm energy reduction competition. There’s a wonder washer and dryer, shower timers and dryer racks among other things,” said Alex Deeter, College senior and Green Edge Fund board member. Winners of some of the raffles will be announced at Drag Ball this Saturday by announcers in drag, followed up a week later by Solarity’s “Awaken the Wild,” which will be the first zero-waste Solarity event.

According to the organizers, feedback from students has been positive so far. They say they are pleased with participation and excited for the remaining week of events to come.

“One of the biggest things in sustainability – one of the changes that needs to be made is behavioral change. Technological changes don’t really mean anything if they’re not used differently as well and you can get some of the biggest change from behavioral change. And that’s what Ecolympics is really about,” said Deeter.