Cool it, Columbia
How many times have you left open your window on your way out because your dorm room was too hot?
And then returned that night to find your room freezing cold, so you closed the window and went to bed, only to wake up in the morning drenched in enough sweat to make you believe you sleepwalked the entire New York City marathon route?
I think we’ve all lived this routine more than a few times here, and given that fact, why does Columbia pump so much heat into its buildings and residence halls? Or perhaps the better question is: How much money, energy, and resources are we wasting by day after day pumping natural gas up the pipes, through our vents, briefly into our rooms, and then immediately gusting out the window?
Columbia housing has forced all of its residents into purchasing the deluxe all-you-can-eat buffet of heating, electricity, water, and air, without the option of only taking a small nibble, but what if they privatized utilities for each dorm room and billed students at the end of each semester based on their usage? What if we could shave off around $1,500 a year from our housing bills and then dictate on our own terms how much we wanted to spend on keeping our rooms like a Swedish sauna or a Hothian ice storm? Or would that be too much freedom?
(Or even more pressing—what if I managed to make this entire post a series of rhetorical questions? While my editors probably won’t allow that to become a reality, this tragedy of the commons is all too real.)
But this isn’t just an issue of cost. Making students think harder about how and when they use these resources will stop wasteful heating left on all day while we’re out at class, or the lights being left on all weekend while visiting friends upstate.
Privatizing utilities would not only save money and resources but also help students prepare for some of the practical realities of post-graduation life—something a liberal arts education doesn’t always leave us fully equipped to deal with.
Yes, the initial fixed costs of installing monitors to determine the amount of resources diverted to each room would be a loss, but the money saved from students no longer wastefully using resources with reckless abandon would surely recoup the costs very quickly. It’s a proposal I would think groups like EcoReps, and all students concerned with better managing our resources, could really get behind. Plus, the $1,500 or so you could shave off your housing bill wouldn’t be too shabby either.
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