Chillin' like a Villain

He doesn’t have a sweater collection, he’s not really a radical, and the “turn down the heat!” e-mail he sent

He doesn’t have a sweater collection, he’s not really a radical, and the “turn down the heat!” e-mail he sent to Yard Ops and all of Greenough was more of a whim than a detailed proposal. But that doesn’t mean that Henry Cowles ’08 isn’t dedicated to energy conservation—and proving just how well he can withstand the Cambridge cold.

When the Duluth, MN native found himself having to peel off layers of clothing just to be comfortable in his overheated dorm room, he decided to take action.  On October 22, he sent an email to Yard Ops, which manages the freshman dorms, and cc’ed it to the Greenough listserv and a few others. He judged—based on the extremities of tropical warmth he felt—that lowering the temperatures about ten degrees would be not only more cost- and energy-efficient, but also more comfortable.  

“I do not see the reasoning,” he wrote, “to raise the temperatures inside the living environments to the point where the most comfortable apparel choices are shorts and t-shirts.”  Further research involving thermometers from the chemistry lab revealed the true level of Greenough’s warmth—up to 76° in some rooms, a temperature which might have made even Jimmy Carter remove his cardigan.

As a kid, Cowles always bundled up in socks and sweats before going to bed.  “Henry grew up,” his mother Katie Cowles explains, “among family who delight in opening gifts which bring warmth... scarves, socks, long underwear, mittens.”

Cowles has received some negative feedback, but much support as well. He has been backed up by the Environmental Action Committee (EAC), of which he is a member. Publicity Chair Alex L. Pasternack ’05, who is also a Crimson editor, says that the EAC “warmly supports any attempt to reduce wasted energy on campus.”

As Cambridge regulations set the minimum day/nighttime temperatures at 68°/64°, Cowles’ proposed change would have to first be approved at City Hall.  Just how far is “Mr. Chillout” willing to go?  “I mean, I’m not going to lobby,” he says, “unless I do.  But that might be more energy than what it’s worth.”  

Still, Cowles is cautious of overstepping student comfort; though he wants to show students more environmentally-friendly ways to live, he adds with a laugh, “Maybe not pissing them off about their room heat is a better way to go about that.”