Behind the Scenes Look at the F Street House's Eco Challenge Strategies

April 12, 2016

President Knapp and his wife, Diane Robinson Knapp, came to George Washington University in 2007 with many priorities including sustainability. This year, as part of Eco Challenge, they are working alongside students to decrease the campus’ environmental footprint.

Eco Challenge is a competition between George Washington University residence halls to reduce energy and water use.  Students compete to see who can save the most electricity and water and produce the cleanest recycling. The F Street House, the GW President’s residence, is participating as an exhibition member and will get their recycling, energy and water monitored just like the rest of the contestants.

Students often ask me and other Eco Reps at GW for tips and tricks to improve their score for Eco Challenge. This can range from turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth to cleaning out plastic containers before recycling them. I met with Diane Knapp to take a behind the scenes look at how the F Street House is working on their Eco Challenge goals.

  • Energy –When having the house renovated in 2007 we made sure that if something could be done sustainably it was!  Measures specifically related to energy savings included installing low-e glass in all windows; having insulation blown in the walls; installing high-efficiency AC/heating units and ceiling fans where feasible.

  • Water – “Low flow toilets were installed in bathrooms throughout the house (six!) and all washers are ‘low water use’.”

  • Recycling – “Recycling and reuse is always important!  We recycle all paper, bottles, cans, etc. at the F Street House.  I also rinse and reuse as many plastic bags as possible and have reusable bags for grocery shopping.  We also use ‘recycled’ dishes for events (our dishes were originally owned and used at the Ritz Carlton)!”  Since the F Street House is pretty good at recycling, as we found out from going through their trash, they decided to take it a step further and install a compost bin in the garden.

Although we, as students, don’t have control over our plumbing or ceiling lighting in buildings, we can take initiative by submitting FixIt requests for leaky toilets or using lamps with LED lights and turning off gaming stations. At the F Street House, they also face some challenges when it comes to sustainability. For example, Diane explained, “We hold over 80 events at the house each year, so one big issue for us is keeping the use of disposables to a minimum; this is especially difficult in the kitchen!  We use (and wash) cotton hand towels and napkins instead of using paper.”

As we finish the last round of Eco Challenge, remember that many small actions create a movement that can help create a more sustainable world and, of course, help your hall win fabulous prizes (I hear there may be puppies).