January 20, 2011 | Theo Voss

Students use a number of ways to earn environmental points.

This year, Kill-A-Watt started off on Friday, January 7, with a packed Open Mic Night. Since then Kill-A-Watt has attracted over 500 students to various events.

Kill-A-Watt is a dorm competition geared toward helping students practice sustainability in all parts of life.

“The goal of Kill-a-Watt is to educate students about sustainability and how their faith intersects with sustainability and how caring for creation is part of our faith,” said Becki Levad, the resident director (RD) heading up Kill-A-Watt, “and a side effect of that is that students are starting to engage more with the broader Calvin campus and ask questions.”

Kill-A-Watt is based on a point system, and students can earn points for going to events and participating in challenges. The dorm with the most points per person wins. Events range from big January series lectures to small floor events, challenges range from changing your life for a month to using less electricity, and the incentive is the equivalent of the Holy Grail in the dorms: more open house hours.

Events: 1 – 8 points   

Some campus-wide events are things like Meatless Monday, documentaries, a January Series lecture and a community energy forum on campus, but Kill-A-Watt provides more than just general campus events; it sponsors students to create their own events based on three main themes: Water, Wind, and Earth. Each floor generally organizes at least one event a week based on that week’s theme.

Challenges: 1- 10 points         

There are three broad categories for challenges: electricity, DREAM, and lifestyle.

The electricity challenge is to reduce electricity consumption as much as possible throughout the event. Consumption is measured at the end of the month, and the dorm that consumes the least per person gets the most points—and vice versa.

The Dorm Room Environmental Awareness Movement, or DREAM certification is a simple survey that was created by Rooks-VanDellen RD Kyle Heys and based on LEED certification guidelines. DREAM is  modified to test a person’s lifestyle and not their facility. Last year over 450 students participated in DREAM and learned how various practices like checking the dryer for lint, leaving electronics plugged in when not in use and owning a plant affect their daily lives.

 The three lifestyle challenges are the most hands-on way of participating as students have to keep total shower time to under 20 minutes a week and not use bottled water (Water Challenge), unplug their room refrigerators and refrain from using dryers (Electricity Challenge), or refrain from eating meat (Food Challenge) for the duration of interim. In the first week of Kill-A-Watt this year, 358 students have accepted some type of lifestyle challenge.


In 2008 Kill-A-Watt was a small yet popular energy competition between the halls in Bolt-Heyns-Timmer. The next year it became a dorm-wide competition led and organized mostly by students. In 2010 more staff started getting involved, but relied heavily on students to help organize and lead the 25 dorm events attended by over 750 students—as well as challenges like DREAM.

This year Kill-A-Watt moved to January, instead of the traditional February because they didn’t want to conflict with Black History Month.

Lasting Impact

Due in part to previous success in inspiring students to dine without trays, Kill-A-Watt has been able to pass its Tray-less Tuesday event on to dining services as a daily occurrence.

However, some students have mixed feelings about Kill-A-Watt. One said, “I like the idea, but it’s too much of a competition.” Another said, “It’s a good idea, but it just doesn’t seem like it does very much.” 

Kill-A-Watt has been criticized from the beginning. For example, this year they decided not to have a voluntary blackout—a time during which students voluntarily go without light—because students complained that friends badgered them to turn off all their lights even when they were in use.

Despite their mixed feelings, most students will admit that Kill-A-Watt has raised their awareness. They say: “I’m a lot more aware of turning off the lights,” and “I think it’ll influence me in small ways.”

Students participating in Kill-A-Watt

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