The Green Olympics, a month-long competition among UNC Asheville’s six residence halls to reduce their waste and energy consumption, wraps up this week with a big response from students.
Riley Judge, freshman fine arts student and Eco-Rep coordinator for the Student Environmental Center, said the competition aims at improving energy use and awareness.
“We’re trying to get people thinking about being more environmentally sustainable and help them figure out what they can do,” Judge said. “It takes 30 days to form a habit, so 30 days is how long we do Green Olympics.”
Judge said participation among the halls has been widespread. Along with reducing waste contributing to climate change, Judge said this year’s prize may be behind the extra boost of enthusiasm: a whitewater rafting trip.
“I’ve had a lot of people really excited about the whitewater rafting trip. Everyone wants to go on that,” Judge said.
So far, Founders Hall leads the competition, with Mills Hall trailing closely behind.
Margaret Benfield, resident assistant for Founders Hall, said she and other RAs have worked to keep students in her hall informed.
“People hear, ‘The Green Olympics are happening,’ but they don’t really know what that is. So, we, as RAs, have been trying to help people understand what they can do,” Benfield said. “It’s been a lot of reminding people to turn off lights when you leave the room or talking about composting.”
Benfield, a junior English education student, said she sees many students in her hall making an effort to sort waste and use less energy.
“I know there are several people in my hall who are starting to unplug things as they leave, which takes a couple more seconds than you would originally think to do,” Benfield said. “There’s several people who are really into it and are trying their best to reduce and there are some people who will do it more when they think of it but it all helps.”
Jenna Ventrella, project coordinator for the Student Environmental Center, said while the rafting trip may persuade students to start making changes, the bigger implication of climate change remains the primary focus.
“I think that now that so many people are on board with climate change being a real thing, students are beginning to realize that their choices do have an impact,” Ventrella said.
Ventrella, a freshman health and wellness student, said she feels pleased with the level of engagement among her friends.
“They’re like, ‘Oh I’ve got to turn off the lights now.’ I think it’s exciting for students to be involved,” Ventrella said.
Ventrella said students have many options when it comes to reducing their ecological footprint, including turning off lights, taking shorter showers and sorting their waste.
For Ventrella, throwing away items that could be composted or recycled has the biggest negative effect on the environment.
“Composting is a big one. We have individual compost bins that students can take to their rooms and use,” Ventrella said. “Think about whether your waste is recyclable or compostable or not. Be conscious about what you’re throwing away.”
As students in the residence halls wait for the final results of the competition, Benfield said the skills and knowledge may be the biggest takeaway for students.
“It can make a lasting impact to know what can be recycled or what can be composted,” Benfield said. “It takes a little more time to figure out what goes where and what can be reused, but having that knowledge and being able to apply it later can be what makes the most impact in the long term.”