'Green Monkeys' Win Duke's Sustainability Contest

About 40 teams participated during six-month 'Smackdown'

This whiteboard was used by the Green Monkeys, the Green Devil Smackdown's winning team, to brainstorm ideas about how team members can take on sustainable actions. Photo courtesy of Jake Gordon.
This whiteboard was used by the Green Monkeys, the Green Devil Smackdown's winning team, to brainstorm ideas about how team members can take on sustainable actions. Photo courtesy of Jake Gordon.

The winning team in the Green Devil Smackdown is the Green Monkeys, a group of faculty and staff from the Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology departments who ended the contest April 1 ahead of 42 other teams.

The Green Monkeys compiled an average of 3,062 points for each of their 32 team participants, which was about 500 more points than the second-place team, DUSON Green Team, from the School of Nursing.

"There are all kinds of things you can do to make a difference on campus," said Jake Gordon, a lab technician in the Department of Biology and team leader for the Green Monkeys. "If we're all doing them, it can add up. I'm trying to eat less meat and be more conscious of what can and can't be recycled."

April 1 marked the conclusion of the Green Devil Smackdown, the sustainability-themed team competition that saw 43 teams of about 1,350 students, faculty and staff take on "green" challenges and answer quizzes about Duke's sustainability efforts. The program ran from October 2012 through the end of March.

To honor the Green Monkeys victory, the team will receive a wrestling-themed championship belt at an awards ceremony April 22. Last year's champion, GREENGINEERING, a group from the Pratt School of Engineering, finished seventh overall in this year's contest. The top individual participant this year is Bonnie Conner, logistics coordinator with Duke University Press.

"I now have reusable dishes to use at work, am no longer using bottled water on a regular basis and have a refillable mug," said Conner, noting ways she cuts her carbon footprint. "I walk and take the bus more often and try to consolidate errands whenever possible."

Gordon said the Green Monkeys took part in numerous challenges to encourage sustainable behavior, like making a green-themed video, hosting a meatless potluck meal and compiling teammate sustainability ideas on a community whiteboard.

"We set up a whiteboard in a common area and asked everyone on our team to share an idea of something they can do at work to reduce their carbon footprint or make their lives more `green,'" Gordon said. "There were ideas as easy as turning lights off, which sometimes we forget to do in labs if we leave something to sit for 10 minutes and leave the room."

In all, Smackdown participants completed 3,500 quizzes about sustainability resources on campus, 132 pledged to reduce their water consumption as part of Duke's World Water Day efforts and dozens of teams organized group activities like making a trip to the Durham Farmers Market, organizing a carbon neutral concert and trying alternative transportation.

"The Smackdown united team members around the common goal of living sustainably," said Casey Roe, outreach coordinator for Sustainable Duke. "We were excited to see how much fun participants were having planning sustainable activities together while also learning more about Duke resources like the Duke Free Store, the Green Grant Fund, and online tracking of Duke buses through Transloc."