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**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
College freshmen Josh and David live together in an on-campus dorm. They share a communal bathroom with two other students. Halfway through the school year, Josh begins to notice that David takes unusually long showers. With each passing week, David’s showers have increased to 45 minutes each and every day.
Josh knows that running water ultimately goes down the drain and into the sewers. Of course, everyone just assumes there will be more available the next day. However, Josh realizes that David is consuming huge amounts of water as well as enormous amounts of energy.
Bothered by David’s actions, Josh talks to David and calmly points out that his water and energy consumption is not good for the environment, as well as being extremely expensive. David, however, doesn’t see it that way and replies with, “Whatever. I just pay for room and board. I don’t pay for the utilities. That shouldn’t be my problem.”
This is a common problem among college students living in dorms. Since the bills don’t go directly to students, it is easy for them to lose track of how much they are actually using and assume that water and energy are unlimited resources. If David actually saw how much water he was using and paid the bill himself, he might think differently and be inclined to reduce his water consumption. But because he pays only a flat rate for room and board, he feels it is not his concern and that he can use as much energy as he likes without a second thought.
How can a university encourage students like David to be more environmentally conscious of their water consumption when students do not pay for utilities directly? How can students hold each other accountable for being responsible about their individual water and energy consumption? What incentives could there be for students to care about how much water and energy they use other than the fact that it can cost more money?
Photo available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr from Joost Nelissen.