The University’s latest plan to
conserve energy and be more environmentally friendly is directed
toward the campus community and calls for altering behavioral
patterns to cut costs. In adding these “awareness
programs” to existing environmental conservation plans, the
University is acknowledging that student support is a key component
of any energy management strategy. Unfortunately, these latest
measures are unlikely to have any significant effect.

Kate Green

The new initiatives, sponsored by the Occupational Safety and
Environmental Health department, include measures such as placing
catchy signs next to light switches that read, “Turn off the
juice when not in use and help conserve energy!” While
limiting electricity use is an integral part of reducing energy
costs, the potential efficacy of this new campaign is not
promising. Students are likely to ignore these courtesy notices. In
fact, these initiatives simply appear to be a low-cost, low-input
way of appeasing environmentalists. A significant, creative program
will be necessary if the University hopes to affect behavioral
patterns within the campus community.

Portions of the new initiatives do provide more concrete
techniques for curbing excess waste. The Pollution Prevention Lab
Survey calls for the use of “micro-teaching
techniques,” which encourage laboratories to limit use of
materials in experiments.

The University’s commitment to upgrade the level of energy
efficiency and cut costs certainly has merit. After it received the
Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Combined Heat
and Power Award in September, it is clear that there is a strong
desire to alleviate the problem of waste, and the University is on
a productive track in doing so. Furthermore, in a time of such
financial strain, it is important to cut costs in any way possible.
Occupancy-sensored lighting is underway in some facilities on
campus, and more fluorescent and halogen light fixtures are being
installed. Yet more work must be done to trap heat in older
facilities and to make residence hall showers low-flow.
Improvements such as these, which yield tangible results, need to
continue.

The University can cross its fingers and hope that students and
staff take note of these recommendations and turn off the lights
when they leave a room, but even with kind reminder notices, the
idea that this will have any noteworthy results seems to be wishful
thinking. The University must follow through with these initiatives
and push for more substantive methods of conserving energy.

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