CMC Students Power through to 1st Place in 5C Power Down

CMC's environmental club, SSPEAR (Sustainable Students Promoting Environmental Action & Responsibility), recently won the 4th annual “5C Power Down Challenge” against teams from the other Claremont Colleges.

According to Aileen Dinh, Webmaster and Publicity coordinator for SSPEAR, it’s a vast improvement from the club’s last-place finish last year when the club’s overall energy usage actually increased.

“This year, we believe that our victory is due to our increased publicity efforts as well as the enthusiasm of our members and the student body,” Dinh said.

The 5C Power Down Challenge was held for three weeks (Feb. 16-Mar. 8) with energy reduction measured off of a baseline level established in early February. For this latest challenge, SSPEAR won with a 6.8% energy reduction above their baseline level which was 0.4% above second-place finisher Pitzer College’s energy reduction.

Dinh said that, overall, the 5Cs saved about 15,833 kilowatt hours of energy throughout the time of the competition, which is the equivalent of 7,583 pounds of CO2 averted or savings of $1,889.

CMC itself saved about 9,227 kilowatt hours of energy. For more statistics from the PowerDown Challenge, go to:

SSPEAR’s mission is to raise awareness of environmental issues, the impact of climate change and responsible uses of the earth’s ecosystems and resources by planning events that educate and enlist humanity to practice sustainability and to protect and restore the natural environment.

The club’s efforts to publicize the competition and encourage energy-saving habits among the student body included asking students to pledge to conserve energy, hosting a kick-off laundry event and offering incentives (pizza and ice cream) to the dorm that saved the most energy or made the most pledges.

“To ask for pledges, we tabled in front of Collins dining hall to catch students coming in to eat,” Dinh said. “We also asked for pledges at each of our events during the first week of the competition.”

In total, SSPEAR encouraged more than 240 CMC students (about 20% of the student body) to make a pledge to reduce their energy usage in the dorms for a month's time.

Dinh said that the kick-off event was held the day before the competition started, and involved stringing up laundry lines across South Quad for students to air dry their washed laundry. “We saved more than 20 dryer cycles by doing this,” she said. “One of our events held during the competition was hosting a raw snack and acoustic performance-in-the-dark night at one of CMC's late-night snacks.”

Energy-saving habits that SSPEAR encouraged during (and after) the competition, include:

* Unplugging chargers, microwave ovens and other electronic devices when not in use;
* Turning off all lights and TVs when leaving the room, and using natural light during the day;

* Studying in the light of common areas instead of in students’ own rooms;
*Air-drying laundry by hanging it outside; and

* Taking shorter showers.

Dinh (a Science & Management major with a sequence in Biotechnology) estimates that SSPEAR has about 12 core members that are active throughout the year participating in club activities like “National Beach Cleanup Day” at Huntington Beach and the “Trash on the Lawn” event at CMC.

“Right now, we're preparing an event for Earth Day, which is on April 22,” Dinh said, “and we are planning on building a 5C environmental coalition very soon.” For more information on the various events in which the club participates, go to SSPEAR’s website:

In addition, the club has a new position this year called the Eco Rep. “Each dorm on campus has its own Eco Rep who publicizes SSPEAR events and messages to their dorm residents,” Dinh said. “They are also tasked with creating and hosting their own dorm event that caters to spreading awareness, encouraging action, or initiating discussions regarding sustainability on campus.”

According to Dinh, the Power Down Challenge couldn’t have come off without help from Collins dining hall manager, Jennifer Carbajal. “We were able to display our energy reduction graphs and physical pledges in the dining hall for students to see,” Dinh said, “and Jennifer was very receptive to our idea of holding a Raw Snack night.”

Dinh also cited a “continuous relationship” with CMC's Facilities, where Rob Lawrence and Olivier Kinderstuth obtained energy level readings.

“We really appreciate their support and all they do to stay informed of sustainable changes around campus,” she said. “Kristin Miller from the Roberts Environmental Center also helped connect us with many students and staff members to spread the word about the competition.”

Dinh said that energy levels may fluctuate and other victors may be crowned in future %C Power Down Challenges, SSPEAR’s goal remains the same: to help build a more sustainable lifestyle on campus by showing students that their efforts really matter, and in advocating for greater energy sustainability within and without CMC.