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Sounds like a bright idea: Turn off some extra lights, win $750.

UCF’s annual Kill-A-Watt Conservation Competition is officially underway, stretching until April 12. Students living in university housing are encouraged to reduce their personal energy consumption, thus reducing the total energy usages of their respective buildings. Residents of buildings with the most significant energy reductions will be eligible for scholarships from the Student Government Association.

All UCF-owned housing complexes are participating in the competition, including the off-campus NorthView apartments, the Neptune community and Greek housing owned by the university, such as Kappa Alpha Theta, Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma. Buildings will be separated into seven groups based on their total size and compete to achieve the greatest energy reduction.

Residents of the best-performing buildings will receive emails notifying them of their scholarship eligibility. Students must then post a video or digital art piece to the Sustainable UCF Facebook page answering the question “What did I do to save energy?” by April 22.

There are 24 scholarships available: Eight will land $750, eight will pocket $350 and eight will receive $100 prizes.

The Office of Sustainability Initiatives provides the power behind the campaign. Known also as Sustainable UCF, the office supports a number of green student organizations.

“We cannot forget to pay attention to our future,” said sophomore Morgan Montel, who is involved in Sustainable UCF’s animal-rights club, Knights BARC. “Fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources will be entirely used, and the only way to prepare is to conserve now, create new ways to capture renewable energy and teach each other how to love the Earth around us.”

Hannah Hollinger, the social outreach student assistant for Sustainable UCF, emphasized how painless it is for students to reduce their personal energy consumption. She suggested a number of simple methods for saving dorm energy, including unplugging devices such as cellphone chargers, hair dryers, laptops and coffeemakers when not in use, taking shorter showers and using energy-efficient light bulbs to reduce heat waste.

Now in its ninth year, the annual Kill-A-Watt campaign has saved the university a total of 2,216,485 kWh of energy, an equivalent of $216,004 and enough to power 200 average homes in the United States for a full year, according to Sustainable UCF’s website.

“When I lived in the Libra community as an undergraduate, my roommate and I were very energy-conscious in our dorm,” Hollinger said. “We shared appliances like the television and mini-fridge, turned off the lights when we left and made use of natural daylight. We also made a craft poster on the outside of our door that said ‘We RECYCLE in Room 108!’ to encourage those around us to also recycle.”

Those simple strategies, Hollinger added, not only benefited the environment but also prepared her for a lifetime of energy awareness.

Beyond dorm life, she added, students should strive to reduce their energy consumption by making minor lifestyle changes, many of which have large-scale benefits. Eating local and organic foods, for example, help to reduce the energy needed to import and preserve food from distant locations.

“Participating in Kill-A-Watt didn’t require a lot of effort, just some minor daily changes,” said sophomore Tati Kasun, who took part in the 2015 competition.

In a video released by Sustainable UCF on Feb. 19, President John C. Hitt praised the office for its ongoing efforts to promote clean, efficient living, and said that though climate change affects everyone, UCF holds out hope.

“Showing concern for the environment, not to mention the money saved in a person’s pocket, is not a hippie or liberal issue anymore,” Hollinger said. “The health of our planet affects everyone, and I believe that the time to selfishly and selflessly act is now.”

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Jennifer Kline is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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