UT residence halls are doing their part to POWER UT.

Programs Of Water, Energy and Recycling began in 2005 as a tool to educate students about sustainability beyond the classroom, while also attempting to make UT a greener campus.

Through specific recycling and energy-efficient challenges, each of UT's residence halls compete to prove it has the greenest residents.

The POWER Challenge's ultimate goal is to reduce the campus' environmental impact through energy and water conservation and increase recycling rates, according to Elizabeth Boehmer, sustainability outreach coordinator at the Office of Sustainability.

The Apartment Residence Hall was recently declared the 2013-2014 winner of the POWER Challenge and won two bikes any resident can use.

"This will be the first free bike rental program on campus," Boehmer said. "It is a prize that will give ARH residents access to a green way of getting around. We are looking forward to tracking the success of this program in hopes that every hall will have free bike rentals in the future."

Logan Terheggen, a junior in chemical engineering and an intern for the Office of Sustainability, said the POWER Challenge has grown in popularity since its inaugural year.

"This year marked a historic amount of participation from each of the residence halls in terms of all the events and programs that they orchestrated," Terheggen said. "I would say this effort is gaining traction with the student body.

"I believe it is an effort that is a step in the right direction in both action and mindset."

Residence halls can earn points based on their water and energy reductions, as well as recycling increases.

Additional points can also be earned by participating in the "Power Down Pledge," recycling plastic bags, volunteering for game day recycling or attending another environmental event.

According to the Office of Sustainability's website, residence halls saved 443,700 cubic feet of water during the 2012-2013 POWER Challenge, the equivalent of approximately five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Residence halls also increased recycling by seven tons and saved 14,000 gallons of gasoline, continuing the program's growing green impact.

"This year, UT avoided $44,000 in costs due to conservation and recycling," Boehmer said. "Over 2,000 students attended at least one of the 67 environmental programs throughout the challenge and over 1,500 students and staff signed onto the Power Down Pledge."

In addition, the Eco-Vols club started the Bags to Benches project as a part of the POWER Challenge. Through this process, residence halls collect recycled plastic bags which are then upcycled into a bench to be featured on campus.

The collection bins have remained in the lobby of every residence hall and will soon be placed in all sorority houses.

For more information on the POWER Challenge, click here.

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