One of the biggest competitions at Duke happens long before March Madness. Every fall, the freshmen participate in a month-long environmental contest called Eco-Olympics, where dorms compete to see who can save the most energy, who can keep the most recyclables from getting thrown away, and who can send the most people to a string of informative events taking place over the course of the month.
Eco-Olympics is an entirely student-run initiative. It’s led by a group called Environmental Alliance, and as part of that group, I’ve helped plan the competition for the past four years. This year’s Eco-Olympics has already begun. Last week, I spent several evenings running mini-events in front of the Marketplace, the freshman dining hall. The theme for the week was sustainable food, so freshmen earned points for actions like signing a petition for more sustainable food on campus, taking a short quiz about the food system, or pledging to be vegetarian or vegan during dinner.
Planning Eco-Olympics is a lot of work, but it pays off when I see how enthusiastic the freshmen can get. Some people actually take the competition a little too far by resorting to sabotage. I’ve heard of students going to other dorms to take showers or turn on lights. But that’s not typical. Usually, Eco-Olympics increases dorm spirit and teaches freshmen a few things about being environmentally friendly.
Eco-Olympics reminds me of my days on East Campus (where all the freshman dorms are located). I have formed a lot of attachments during my time at Duke, but there’s nothing quite like the bond with my freshman dorm. Gilbert-Addoms (or GA) was the first place outside of my parents’ house that really felt like home. Now that I’m frighteningly close to graduation, I’m nostalgic for that unique sense of community. Soon enough, I’ll be thrust into another completely new setting (I still haven’t figured out where), and I can only hope that it will come to feel like home, too.
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