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UNC Dorm Wins National Energy Contest

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UNC's Morrison Hall with solar panels on roof. Photo: Screen grab from UNCSustainability's YouTube channel.

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Residents of a dorm on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill beat out more than a dozen other competitors across the country in a national contest to conserve energy. Morrison Residence Hall came in first, ahead of a Sears store in Maryland and a California JC Penney's. Kierra Peak and her fellow dorm mates at Morrison Hall managed to save their school a quarter of a million dollars on its power bill last year. Peak says a healthy spirit of competition - and some friendly peer pressure - helped motivate them to use cold water when they do laundry, unplug their cell phone and laptop adapters when not using them. "And take shorter showers," says Peak. "I used to take longer showers. Just be smarter with your choices. " The residence hall also tweaked its heating and air conditioning systems, replaced lighting with more efficient bulbs and upgraded solar panels on the roof to heat water. The upgrades were paid for by a $4 sustainability fee on tuition. (UNC students voted to impose the fee on themselves.) All told, Morrison Hall cut its energy use by 35.7 percent in a single year. That was just enough to beat the second-place finisher - a Sears store in Maryland that trimmed 31.7 percent of its energy use. It was the EPA's first National Building Competition to promote conservation. As the victors, Peak and the other 800 or so residents of Morrison Hall get a plaque to display in their lobby. And they have something even more important: "We have bragging rights," says Peak, noting that Morrison Hall beat out another dorm at rival NC State University. Their conservation also topped efforts at a couple of elementary schools across the country, a handful of office buildings, and two hotels.