RSO says turn off the lights

By Isaac Wolf

How much is turning off one’s lights and shutting down the computer before leaving for class worth to students in the College?

Whatever the answer is, the Green Campus Initiative wants to make it more worth their while. With the support of the facilities services office, the environmentalist group is conducting a two-month campaign to raise awareness about energy conservation while monitoring each dorm’s consumption. At the end of the contest, Green Campus will award prizes totaling over $2,000 to the dorm with the largest consumption decreases per-capita.

Katie Parsons, a member of Green Campus and a third-year in the College, said the difficulty many campus programs face–student apathy–will not be a hindrance for the campaign. The average University student cares about conserving energy, she said, and they just need a reminder to be more conscientious.

“There are obviously going to be people who are not receptive to us,” Parsons said. “But many are interested. Turning off lights and turning off the computer is a daily habit. If we emphasize that it’s a daily habit then they’ll start to think about it on a day-to-day basis. Maybe this is the impetus for them to not forget.”

The contest began as Green Campus put the final touches on a proposal to increase energy efficiency at the University, which it submitted today, in conjunction with the Quality Lighting Coalition.

The proposal calls for the University to increase energy efficiency over the next four years by purchasing 20 percent of the energy it will consume from renewable sources and also slimming down consumption by about seven percent through energy audits and refits.

“The University of Chicago has been at the forefront of the intellectual community since its inception,” the proposal reads. “The University is now faced with novel challenges of energy consumption. We propose that the University of Chicago takes reasonable but meaningful action to change the energy consumption patterns of our campus to achieve greater efficiency.”

Green Campus hopes its contest with the dorms will help convince the University to take the issue of energy efficiency more seriously, according to Nicole Kuhnke, a member of the initiative and third-year in the College. “We want to show that we’re supporting it ourselves and not just asking the University to do it without our backing.”

Kuhnke said the representatives that her organization has sent to house meetings to discuss efficiency have received positive feedback.

“They seem excited,” Kuhnke said. “The idea is just to get students aware. Leaving your computer and your CD player on use up energy. Most people just don’t realize that.”

The proposal estimates that the University could save up to $600,000 a year with efficiency improvements.

The University has already retrofitted four buildings, meaning that it has evaluated the efficiency of the buildings’ lighting, heating and cooling systems. According to Meredith Mack, associate vice president for facilities services, the University plans to retrofit a total of 45 buildings.

Mack said facilities services completed special energy efficiency reviews for the new buildings and that the office is currently focusing on its metering and information about energy use as a way to pinpoint consumption.

“Energy conservation is a topic we have been working on for several years,” Mack said.

“We are happy to partner with students in managing the use of energy on campus.”

In discussing the goal of Green Campus, Parsons emphasizes that the proposal is not meant to criticize or belittle the University’s current effort, but rather to increase it.

“It’s important to us and other people involved in environmental issues to see that a prestigious university thinks the issue of energy consumption is important,” Parsons said.