Your sustainability habits don’t have to end with Kill-a-Watt: they can grow

When I visited Calvin the first time my senior year of high school, I remember my tour guide excitedly explaining Kill-a-Watt to me: the wide variety in lectures, sustainable food options and, of course, the famous lifestyle challenges. Learning about Kill-a-Watt helped strengthen my resolve to go to Calvin. I wanted to attend a school that not only challenged me academically, but also equipped me with better ways to practice sustainability.

But something I noticed last year, both in myself and others, is a perception of this tradition as a month of cutting back on meat, keeping the dorm lights off and taking shorter showers. While these are good habits, I’ve noticed that it is all too easy to revert back to old habits after the month is over, because the competition is now over; so what is the harm? 

However, Kill-a-Watt is not meant to be a month of discipline with no growth. With the helpful lectures on sustainability along with the lifestyle challenges, Kill-a-Watt is meant to lay a foundation of sustainable tips that we can use to apply to our lives in the hopes of creating a safer planet. 

However, Kill-a-Watt is not meant to be a month of discipline with no growth.

In many ways, Kill-a-Watt reminds me of a season I celebrated every year with my family growing up: Lent. Coming from a Catholic family, Lent was very important to my parents. I remember one year specifically, my dad told me and my sisters that Lent is so much more than us giving up on candy for 40 days only to go back and eat a ton of it on Easter. Lent is also about growing in practices that will strengthen your relationship with Christ, so that even when the season is over, you can still take the teachings and exercises you’ve adopted and apply them to your faith journey. Most importantly, most people go into Lent with a solid foundation of beliefs, using it as a time to simply grow in their beliefs and try out new practices and teachings.

Similarly, many Calvin students enter Kill-a-Watt with prior experience of some sustainable habits, whether that means we have thrifted in the past, have a meatless or minimal meat diet or have a habit of recycling. Similar to a Christian entering Lent, we enter Kill-a-Watt with the prior knowledge of sustainable practices with the hope of growing in these practices and learning more about how to better care for our environment.

I came to Calvin having been a vegetarian for two years based on moral reasons. It was not until Calvin that I became more aware of the environmental impacts meat production has on our planet. So by being vegetarian, I was already helping cut back on carbon emissions. 

I went into my first Kill-a-Watt with some experience on sustainable practices but I knew that I still had room to grow in my sustainable practices. So I challenged myself to use less devices that require outlets, keeping up this practice after Kill-a-Watt. 

Now, when I encourage you to carry out the sustainable practices you learn after Kill-a-Watt, I do not mean that you should stick to every lifestyle challenge you selected on the DREAM survey. Obviously for some people, it is not possible to carry out all of these practices and that is okay. But there is always some way for us to find ways to be sustainable and then to have the drive to carry out these practices for long periods of time. 

So during Kill-a-Watt, I encourage you to find time to attend a lecture, challenge your lifestyle choices or just talk to friends about different ways to be sustainable. And by the time Kill-a-Watt comes to an end, you may decide that it is not too much of a sacrifice to continue cutting back on meat, or keeping the lights off during the day.