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It’s Easy Being Green: On Your Mark…Get Set…Go Green!

SOURCE: AP/Matt Houston

A University of Maryland graduate student monitors the progress of a solar house at College Park, MD. Twenty international teams of college students are convening on the National Mall this week to see who can design and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

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Several green competitions are in full swing this fall. In our nation’s capital the Department of Energy is hosting the Solar Decathlon during October. Twenty international teams of college students are convening on the National Mall to see who can design and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

The decathlon’s 10 contests include architecture, market viability, engineering, and a home’s ability to balance energy production and consumption. The competitions are judged by a group of engineers, architects, and other professionals, and run until October 16.

The purpose is to educate the next generation of engineers and designers about the benefits of energy efficiency and green technologies. The Department of Energy hopes to promote the potential of zero-energy homes—houses that produce as much energy as they consume—through friendly competition. Each team to enter the contest receives $100,000 over two years to support solar technology research. The houses will be open to the public until October 18 to help raise awareness about the efficiency and effectiveness of solar energy.

Another contest is the GREEN GOOD DESIGN competition hosted by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. The program’s goal is to recognize individuals and organizations that offer products and services while keeping in mind environmental principles such as energy conservation, and the reduction of toxic waste and greenhouse gases. It draws its inspiration from the GOOD DESIGN program of the 1950s that sought to foster a public appreciation for modern design.

GREEN GOOD DESIGN invites submissions from the United States and Europe and recognizes outstanding feats of sustainability. Last year’s winners ran the gamut from the Ballard Library and Neighborhood Service Center in Seattle, WA, to the Kingdom of Sweden. This year’s application deadline is November 1 and projects are due by December 1.

The Internet is even hosting eco-friendly competitions. Carbonrally is a blog that offers people a fun way to conserve energy and resources with a team of friends or coworkers. Teams can take challenges that represent a change in behavior, such as packing waste-free lunches and creating vegetable gardens, and record their efforts online. Points are earned based on how much a team reduces their energy consumption and CO2 emissions over the course of the challenge. The site keeps track of a team’s efforts over time and offers occasional prizes to the leading teams.

The point of friendly competition has always been to encourage people to work harder and better. If you’re having a hard time increasing your environmental efforts on your own, maybe a little competition can help. And in the race to a healthier Earth, everyone wins.

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