WATERVILLE — When Colby College students were asked to see how successful they could be reducing electricity consumption last month, the majority jumped at the challenge.

Students in 90 percent of the college’s dormitories were able to reduce how much electricity they used by doing things such as air-drying their clothes, remembering to turn lights off and taking the stairs instead of the elevators, sustainability coordinator Kevin Bright said Thursday.

With Earth Day setting the backdrop, it’s one of the step steps the college is taking to further its commitment to sustainability.

Colby was the fourth college or university in the U.S. to announce its campus had achieved carbon neutral status in 2013, meaning it has a net impact of zero on greenhouse emissions. Shortly before becoming carbon neutral, a biomass heating plant was built to heat campus buildings.

Bright said while Colby does not push the school’s mission of sustainability onto its students, the college does seek to offer opportunities for students to learn more about living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

“We’re not trying to force anybody into anything they are not comfortable with, but are offering them the facts and the opportunity to engage in (sustainable) activities if they are interested,” Bright said. “We hope to educate and encourage students to engage in a sustainable lifestyle, so hopefully they carry it with them after Colby.”

For the last three weeks, Colby’s team of Eco-representatives, who promote sustainable living on campus, tracked the electricity consumption of the dormitories as part of the 2016 Dorm Electricity Competition. Dormitories competed to see which could reduce its electricity consumption the most.

“(The competition) was basically to drive home the fact that it’s not too difficult to conserve electricity, and how being mindful of how they are using electricity can have an impact,” Bright said.

Students in the campus’s 25 residence halls, including the campus apartments, were able to save a total of 6,326.4 kilowatt hours of electricity between March 28 and April 19. The results are based on of a three-week period of regular electricity consumption that was monitored before the start of the competition.

Students in Williams Hall reduced consumption the most, down 18 percent. Leonard Hall came in second, with a reduction of 15 percent form normal rates. Coming in last was Dana Hall, which increased its consumption by 9 percent.

“It’s one small example of how a number of small actions can contribute to a reduction of resources,” Bright said.

Over the past week, Colby has been ringing in Friday’s Earth Day with several opportunities for students to learn about sustainable living.

On Tuesday, a handful of students took a field trip to a composting and bio-digestion plant on a farm in Exeter, where the college sends its organic waste. Bright said that paying the plant to take the organic waste generated from dining halls on campus is cheaper than what it would be to have it removed via the school’s trash service. The plant then transforms the organic material into compost, generating methane gas that is used to provide heat and electricity for the dairy farm.

Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the campus will host an Earth Day Fair, where students will be taught to screen-print their own T-shirts and other clothing items with an Earth Day logo designed by a Colby student.

The fair also will feature a free recycling event, where students can bring unwanted clothing or other items and swap them for other items. Any items remaining after the swap will be taken to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Bright said in past years they have donated over 100 pounds of items after the swap.

“The current weather helps people realize it’s time to purge a little bit before they head home,” Bright said.

Following the fair, on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., students can sign up for a locally sourced dinner option being served in Foss Dining Hall.

The first 100 students to sign up will be admitted to the dinner.

The Earth Day celebrations will wrap up on Saturday with a concert and a carnival from 1 to 3 p.m.. The festivities will include local music, food and beer.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate