Saint Mary's College students are embracing the bright idea of turning out the lights.

During a "Flick the Switch" contest from April 7 to 21, the College's 22 residence halls are competing to see which one cuts its energy consumption the most. The contest is designed to raise student awareness about energy use through a website that will track real-time energy consumption building by building. Dorms consume 20 percent of all energy on the Saint Mary's campus.

The winner will be announced at the College's April 22 Earth Day event and members of the most energy-efficient dorm receive free tickets to the May 3 Gaelstock music festival.

The "Flick the Switch" competition website also offers suggestions to help reduce energy use, including a dorm audit checklist and information about energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning options.

High energy consumption has economic as well as environmental costs. Visitors to the "Flick the Switch" website can watch a cash-register meter that shows College funds flowing out to pay for electricity, natural gas and water.

Over the last year, Saint Mary's has spent more than $1.25 million on electricity, $850,000 on natural gas and $150,000 on water, according to the Flick the Switch website.

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