Energy Smackdown

Reduce your energy footprint and compete against other members of the Cornell community in this annual competition to reduce energy waste and our campus carbon footprint. Everyone can participate, and every action makes a difference!

How to Join the 2021 Competition

  • Competition Details


    Competition Dates: December 1st - Dec 23rd, 2021

  • Using an interactive dashboard hosted by EcoChallenge, a sustainable behaviors competition platform, you will choose from top energy-saving actions you can commit to taking throughout the competition.  

  • Actions include daily habits like adjusting the thermostat,  cold water laundry, and shutting fume hoods. See below on this page for details on why these actions really matter.

  • You must register to participate.  The competition board will send you weekly reminders to log your actions throughout December.

  • This year students compete against faculty & staff for bragging rights on who can reduce the most energy and "smackdown" the competition!

  • How to Participate


    Step 1: Create an account on EcoChallenge

  • Create EcoChallenge Account  

    Step 2: Join a team using these links, or search for"Energy Smackdown" to find the Cornell teams.

  • Join Student Team
  • Join Faculty & Staff Team

  • Step 3: Choose the actions you can commit to!
  • Step 4: Log in daily to track your actions. Get points for completing an action and logging it in the challenge!

    You also gain points by inviting friends and co-workers to participate. It's more fun to compete on a team with your office, residence hall, or lab! Log your actions throughout the month to add points to your team.

  Campus Energy Reduction Grants 

Open to all Cornell community members
Application Deadline: January 14th, 2022

The Energy & Sustainability Department and Campus Sustainability Office have teamed up to
 offer $500-$1,000 grant applications during Energy Smackdown for projects to improve energy efficiency 
and reduce energy consumption on campus.  Ideas welcome for labs, offices, and residential buildings.


  • landing page of the Energy Smackdown
    Check out the Cornell Energy Dashboard throughout the competition to see which buildings and units are reducing the most energy.

    Additional Resources

  • You registered and committed to take action.  Now what? Here are three easy ways to make a greater impact.

  • Talk with your friends, family, and colleagues about what you're doing to reduce energy.
  • People are significantly more likely to adopt sustainable behaviors if they know someone who has already adopted the behavior - so your actions, and your words, make a difference.  

  • Get someone you know to join the competition.
    Ask others to join you, create an event in your workspace or residential community to encourage competition. (You get points in the EcoChallenge for this - you can use your own referral link!) Try social media! 

  • Visualize our collective impact on the Energy Dashboard.
  • Check out Cornell's Energy Dashboard to see which buildings perform best during the competition and how your building compares. This dashboard tracks Cornell's overall energy reduction during the competition, so keep this page bookmarked if you'd like to see our collective impact on campus over time. 

Key Energy Saving Actions

Which actions can I take that have the greatest energy saving and carbon reducing impact?

The Cornell University Energy Management Team and the Campus Sustainability Office teamed up to 
study real-time campus data on energy use, and combine this with leading behavior-change science.  
Together we identified three, high-impact energy-saving actions to take where you live, work, and learn.

Top Three Actions:

  • 2. Take a shorter shower, with lower temperature

  • Save 1.5 kWh for every min you shorten a hot shower and lower the water temperature. Even shaving one minute off counts - imagine if everyone in your residential community did it!
  • 3. Wash full loads of laundry, always use cold water

  • Save 1.5 kWh by washing full loads of laundry using cold water only.  Did you know the laundry machines on campus are designed to clean your clothes effectively on the cold-wash cycle?
  • Why do these actions matter?

    The best way to reduce your energy use in Cornell's residential buildings is to reduce hot water use and manage your plug load carefully.

  • Cornell produces our power on campus, which means energy is wasted when we heat water that isn't used efficiently. By lowering your water temperature in the shower and laundry room, and reducing the overall amount of time you're running water, you're reducing the amount of energy needed to heat up all that water. If every student who lives on campus reduces their hot water usage by 3 minutes a day this action alone could save 1.2 million kWh every month.

    Plug loads and vampire loads are major energy users in residential buildings. Even when "turned off" most devices like TVs, DVD/Blu-Ray players, video game consoles, and cell phone chargers are drawing energy. By grouping those items together, plugging them into a power strip, and turning off the power strip before you leave your room or go to sleep --- you could save around 15-20 kWh per week, which over the course of the year is the equivalent of carbon sequestered by 1.5 acres of forest.

Top Three Actions:

  • 1. Reduce heating needs, lower temps 1-2 degrees

  • Set your room temperature just 1-2 degrees cooler during the winter months to save 1% of your office's energy use.  Purchase a Cozy Toes heater for your feet to keep your body comfortable and reduce ambient heating needs.

  • 2. Keep windows closed

  • If air leaks cause 1/2 of home heat loss in the winter, imagine how much heat is lost from open windows in a building the size of an office, administrative building, or lab space on campus?  When the windows are left open, building energy performance systems can't  perform at their best, and may produce tons of unnecessary heating and cooling.

  • 3. Switch to a Smart Power Strip (and turn it off)

  • Save ~15% of your office's energy use by plugging items into a power strip and turning it off before leaving work. In your own work space, be sure to plug your items into a power strip and turn it off before leaving. No power strip? Simply unplug your electronics instead. Check out our guide to purchasing a smart power strip.

  • Why do these actions matter?

    The best way to reduce your energy use in Cornell's offices and administrative spaces is to control your temperature, take care of your windows, and manage your plug load carefully.

    By lowering the temperature set points in your office and reporting heating/cooling issues to facilities ASAP, you're helping Cornell document and prioritize efficiency updates or building malfunctions that may be causing unnecessary energy use. In addition, make sure all radiators are clear of books, tables, and belongings since radiators cannot work properly without convection.

    During cold weather months, taking care of your windows is key. You want to keep cold air out and warm air in. First, ask facilities staff to remove window A/C units to help seal up your space. Then, keep windows closed to avoid ramping up the building's heating system to accommodate the heat escaping from the open windows. Next, close shades and curtains at night to keep warm air in, and reopen them during the day to maximize natural lighting and promote well-being in your space. Lastly, consider asking your facilities staff to install shrink wrap for older windows, which improves comfort and greatly improves energy efficiency.

  • Plug loads account for around 30% of an office's electricity use. Work with your team to set energy saver settings on copiers, computers, and monitors. Identify and unplug electronics that are no longer needed. "Vampire loads" account for about 10-25% of office energy use -- meaning items are still drawing power when not performing useful work (e.g. TVs, coffeemakers, plugged in laptops (fully charged), desktop computers in sleep mode, microwaves).

Top Three Actions:

  • 1. Shut the Sash

  • Reduce your lab's air ventilation by 2/3 by shutting the sash every time it's not in use.  Did you know fume hoods account for half of all campus energy use?

  • 2. Exit the Lab

  • Cut your lab's energy use in 1/2 when you leave the room vacant and let the lab kick into a preset vacancy mode.  The savings are huge!  Step outside for lunch, for a break, and use common spaces in the buildings for meetings.

  • 3. Raise Freezer Temps

  • Identify cold storage in your lab that isn't being used, or doesn't need to be at maximum low temperatures. Achieve big energy savings by raising temperatures in ultra-low freezers from -80C to -70C. Check out resources from the Freezer Challenge, including evidence that -70C is a safe temperature to store many samples.

  • Why do these actions matter?

    Cornell's biggest energy users are our lab buildings.  Over half of total campus energy use comes from lab spaces - specifically, laboratory ventilation.

    The best ways to reduce energy use in Cornell's lab buildings are to lower fume hood sashes, exit labs and work outside labs whenever possible, and proactively manage ultra-low freezers.

    Laboratory ventilation is responsible for about HALF OF ALL ENERGY USE on campus. That's huge. One fume hood = 3 households' annual energy usage, and we have thousands of fume hoods on campus. Ventilation keeps us safe, but we need your help to reduce wasteful ventilation in fume hoods.

  • First, close the fume hood sash every time it's not in use to reduce air ventilation by 2/3. Since occupancy sensors cannot kick the lab into 'unoccupied mode' when a fume hood is open, this action is especially critical in reducing a lab's energy use. Second, hibernate your fume hoods anytime they will be unused for 2-3 weeks or longer.

  • This saves 200 kWh per week per hood ($100 per week, $5000 per year, based on 5ft hood). Email to take the fume hood out of service within 48 hours and to restore it within 48 hours. No charge, no problem.

  • Cornell labs are equipped with occupancy sensors that can kick labs into ventilation and lighting 'vacancy modes' once they are unoccupied (and fume hoods are closed), so one of the best things you can do is simply exit the lab and work, eat, and meet outside of labs whenever possible.Labs can achieve huge energy savings by raising temperatures in ultra-low freezers from -80C to -70C.