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Awareness and Promotional Campaigns
There are several awareness campaigns underway that call attention to seemingly small, simple things that can add up to significant waste or significant savings. Some of our biggest energy savings to date have been realized through these programs.
It may be simple, but it's not always easy. Often these energy inefficiencies are so deeply ingrained or accepted that they have become almost invisible. That's why we reach out with posters, emails, competitions and even pizza parties. These campaigns often incorporate Smart Energy Behaviors.
Most Amherst College students are concerned with environmental degradation (particularly with regards to climate change) as a pressing global issue. At the same time, Amherst College as an institution is interested in sustainability, both out of a desire for ecological responsibility and because of the simple fact that saving resources also saves money. However, there is an unfortunate disconnect: While students are concerned about climate change in theory, they’re often unaware of what they can be doing individually; and while the College is concerned about saving resources, it does not have an easy way to educate students about sustainable living.
The Amherst College Eco-Rep Program aims to bridge this disconnect. A team of interested students is supported by their college administration with resources and information to raise student awareness about environmental issues and to educate them about environmentally sustainable behavior. This method has been employed effectively at many other colleges around the country, including Dartmouth, Yale, Williams, Tufts, Bowdoin, Johns Hopkins, Brandeis, and many other institutions of higher education, including UMass Amherst just down the road.
The Amherst College Eco-Rep program is established as follows:
- A small committee of two students and one Facilities representative oversee the program––outlining goals, recruiting representatives, designing projects, and gathering information and resources.
- One resident from each dormitory serves a Eco-Rep, selected by the committee through an application process. This volunteer position will be year-long.
- As their primary responsibility, Eco-Reps communicate regularly with students in their dormitories about the “whys and hows” of sustainable living, on campus and beyond. This will be done through conversations, fliers, e-mail announcements, dorm activities, and other methods. A discretionary budget is provided for Eco-Rep programming.
- Eco-Reps also serve as liaisons between the College administration and dorm residents for temporary or ongoing programs and events such as recycling, energy competitions, and sustainability-related activities.
- In order to keep the College administration informed, Eco-Reps keep tabs on their dorm residents’ adoption of and attitudes towards sustainability measures.
One of the easiest things anybody can do to reduce his or her energy consumption is to replace an incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). This simple change is #1 on almost every "things you can do to address global warming" list.
CFLs provide the same light output at 25% of the power. They also last 8-10 times as long and will save their purchase price in energy at least 20 times over. According to National Geographic (Sept. 2004 "Global Warning"), changing one light bulb can prevent 500 pounds of coal from being burned.
Amherst College has administered several campaigns in which students exchanged old incandescent light bulbs for new CFL's, getting thousands of them out on campus.
In 2009, the Green Amherst Project reported that more than 370 incandescent bulbs were swapped out for compact fluorescent lamps, preventing a total of 185,000 pounds of coal from being burned over their lifetimes.
Two light bulb "amnesty day" exchanges were run on Sept. 14 and 21, 2006 in Keefe Campus Center, staffed by MassPIRG students. Overall we had 316 students participate, and 409 compact fluorescent light bulbs were exchanged. Overall participation was 316 out of 1640 students, or 19%.
Estimated savings are 47,853 kilowatt-hours per year, enough to light 40 homes. Annual savings will be $6,100. The energy savings also mean reduced emissions from the power plants that supply our electricity. It will save 16 tons a year of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking three cars off the road (or one Cadillac Escalade) or planting four acres of trees.
Amherst College first joined the Million Monitor Drive in 2005. This effort is a national ENERGY STAR campaign to enable the monitor power management features on a million computer monitors.
Amherst IT and Physical Plant joined to help students, faculty and staff enable the power management settings on their PCs, letting the monitors shut down or "sleep" when idle. The potential savings are huge since there are so many computers on campus.
Studies by the US EPA and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs show that only 36% of users shut down their PCs at night, and that PCs are idle 58% of the work day. By allowing PCs to "sleep" during these times, Amherst can save up to $50,000 a year.
Inter-dorm energy competitions were run for the Million Monitor Drive and Light Bulb Amnesty campaigns. Pizza parties went to the top three dorms, based on percent participation.
The winning dorms of Million Monitor Drive 2005 were Waldorf and Humphries with 100% participation. Plaza was 3rd with 84%, followed closely by Appleton and King (74%), chased by James and Stearns (68%).
Million Monitor Drive 2006 was won by Seligman and Chapman with 100% participation, followed by North with 85%.
The first-year dorms dominated the first Light Bulb Amnesty campaign, with South, Appleton and North earning top honors.
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We call this campaign "The Big Turn Off" because energy waste is unattractive, unhealthy and unwise . . . and because that's what we want you to do: turn things off.
Rapidly increasing energy costs, along with the College's commitment to sustainability and reducing its environmental footprint, make simple programs like this an imperative. The concept may be simple, but implementation is not easy.
It takes a conscious effort and intradepartmental cooperation to make sure lights and office machines are turned off when they're not needed. But taken as a whole, the savings can be very significant, reducing annual electricity use up to 10% by some estimates!
The "Energy Hog" campaign urges students to turn off and unplug appliances when they leave for breaks. To tame the hogs (and keep them from rooting around your room when you leave):
- Refrigerator: Empty the fridge, unplug it, and prop the door open. The biggest hog in your room is probably the refrigerator; it runs 'round the clock and uses 50 to 100 watts.
- Computers, printers, TVs, DVDs, game consoles: Turn off your computer and turn off and unplug other equipment. Most electronics use energy even when they're "off" – lurking in standby mode.
- Other Appliances and Equipment: Turn off and unplug coffee makers, microwaves, cell phone chargers, etc. These too use energy when "off". Those little plug-in transformers can draw 4 to 7 watts even when they're idle, and they add up quick.
- Windows and Heat: Close and lock all windows and leave the heat at the normal setting. Physical Plant will take care of turning down the heat where they can.
- Lights: Last one out, turn off the lights, lock the door, and have a great break!
By taking these few simple steps, Amherst College students (and staff) can save 78,000 kilowatt-hours over winter break, enough to power 750 homes and save almost $7000. The emissions offsets are 26 tons of carbon dioxide!