The Cortaca Climate Challenge was supposed to parallel the rivalry on the football field between Ithaca College and SUNY-Cortland in an effort to become more sustainable. But Ithaca students weren’t able to get past the first click of registration — a glitch in the challenge’s host website prevented them from participating, which means Cortland will win the competition.
The contest takes place through Carbon Culture, a website where people can sign up to make environmentally conscious commitments such as carpooling and turning off lights, to reduce their carbon footprint in exchange for points. Both schools have groups for the challenge, and the one with the greatest overall carbon reduction by the end of today will win a tree from Root Production Method Ecosystems.
Marian Brown, special assistant to the provost and vice president for academic affairs and organizer of the challenge, said she takes some responsibility for not pressuring the website technicians enough to resolve the issue, but the college will try again next year.
“We thought we had it resolved, but apparently not,” she said.
The college’s group has three members and is currently in the lead because of an additional glitch where points from last year’s America’s Greenest Campus Challenge carried into the new group. However, Brown said Cortland will be the winner by default, because its group has significantly more participants than the college’s group.
Junior Brennan McKenna, resident assistant for the college’s sustainably conscious living community, approached Brown about signing up because he wanted to involve his residents in the challenge. He said the students’ inability to join the group and connect the competition to Cortaca was a letdown.
“It’s sort of disappointing [because] it was touted as one of these alternative things that Ithaca was doing against Cortland, and it ended up not taking off on our end,” he said.
Cortland did not have issues with its group, and took the challenge in stride, signing up more than 350 students. To help gain participants, Cortland held a sign-up event in September and created contests between dorms and administrative departments to reach the largest carbon footprint reduction.
Brown said the idea for the challenge began after the college participated in the Greenest Campus Challenge last year through Climate Culture. She said when Cortland saw how the website worked, it agreed to participate in the Climate Challenge as part of an effort to be more sustainable and keep the good aspects of the rivalry alive.
“We said it could be kind of fun to tweak the whole negative Cortaca Jug competition, which gets pretty ugly, and do a positive spin on it,” she said.
Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman, coordinator for assistive technology and test administration services at Cortland, is helping to run the event, and said Cortland is happy with the students’ response so far.
“[The challenge] goes right into our goal of becoming a more sustainable and greener campus in the future,” he said.
Cortland reduced its carbon footprint by 1.22 percent and saved 242,735 pounds of carbon dioxide since the competition began, according to the Climate Culture website.
Brown said even though the college could not participate fully, the experience fostered a positive competition between the two schools.
“It’s more about getting and engaging both communities and getting them working together to think about how they can make a positive impact together,” she said. “Ultimately, we all win.”