Niki Parekh - May 13, 2019
The 2019 Green Dorm Initiative (GDI) launched on Feb. 18. An annual competition, GDI spanned over two weeks and consisted of both challenges and events for participants. Each participant who signed up received a daily email with a new topic for that week’s themes. They earned points by completing a quiz on the Saturday of the week stating which challenges they completed and events they attended. Participants were eligible to win prizes based on completion of these quizzes.
The organizers of GDI in 2019 were Wiess senior Sarah Silberman and Baker senior Allison Yelvington. Silberman and Yelvington began planning for GDI before their junior year and changed a few things from past years. For example, GDI was two weeks this year rather than three, a shift Silberman and Yelvington both believe was successful in increasing participation. This year, 802 people signed up, a 28 percent increase from last year’s GDI. In terms of completing the quizzes, they had a 30 percent completion rate the first week and a 22 percent completion rate the final week compared to a 9 percent completion rate the final week of last year. This year, GDI coordinators also required the eco-reps of each college to write a daily email and decide a challenge.
The themes of GDI this year were transportation and pollution with events and challenges falling under those themes. Silberman’s favorite challenge was the BCycle challenge, which challenged participants to rent a bike from one of the eight stations around the Rice Campus.
“[BCycle is] a pretty underutilized thing so seeing people actually going out and making this decision and taking the time out of their day to participate is something that I really appreciated,” said Silberman. “[It’s important to] fight back against people [who] complain about Houston transportation because [Houston] actually has a lot to offer.”
The competition had both small and large prizes. Silberman and Yelvington wanted to give everyone a chance to win a prize in general for participating, even if they were not top scorers. However, those with top participation were able to win large prizes. One such winner was Duncan sophomore Franklin Estein. Estein was motivated to participate in GDI through his commitment to environmental sustainability and his desire to learn facts about the environment and how they may impact his habits. For him, it was not about the prizes but the learning experiences and awareness of specific issues.
“I want others to know about the interesting facts and databases provided in the emails, as well as the design of each day around a specific theme,” said Estein.
In addition to individual prizes, the college with the most participation received a catered plant-based FITQ. Lovett College was the winner this year, with eco-reps Henry Baring and Jayson Taylor encouraging maximum participation. Lovett had about 150 people sign up this year and received a total of 1732 points, which was 650 more points than the 2nd place college, Wiess. Baring and Taylor spent a great amount of time in their college commons, trying to remain accessible and encouraging awareness.
“During one challenge, we stayed in our commons for 12 hours straight, going from table to table and talking to people about GDI and answering their questions,” Baring said. “At its roots, GDI should be a fun way to raise awareness about environmental issues, but that requires that people continue to practice reducing their carbon footprint outside of those 2 weeks. It's more important than anything that everyone does as much as they can, no matter how small those efforts are, to be more eco-friendly. Change is incremental, but if everyone does their part to be more green, we can make big changes.”
Silberman and Yelvington plan to return with GDI in academic year 2019-20, where the challenge is most likely to begin in January. A list of the daily topics, prizes, and winners for 2019 are shown below.
Daily Topics and Themes
Week One: Transportation
F: Long trips
Week Two: Pollution
College: Lovett College
Top Participants: Franklin Estein, Kathy Yu, Krystal Cheung, and Nick Killian
Small Prize Winners: Julia Coco, Julia Fischer, Romanda Dobson, Sharon Wang, Linda Zhou, Amy Lin, Colton Alstatt, Moushumi Sahu, Libby Reeves, and Nikhil Suresh Chellam