By Eli Goldman
Clark University’s Climate Action Plan calls for our campus to become carbon neutral by 2030, something that we are well on track to achieving. While Clark has invested over $2 million in technology upgrades that continues to invest in technology improvements and has two LEED certified buildings, there is no doubt that more can be done. Much of Clark’s campus depends on old buildings that are not ideal for energy conservation technology. These old buildings house most of the staff and departmental offices. Clark’s student body is very active in pursuing ways to conserve energy. We routinely perform Green Room and Green Office Audits, have a team of hard-working Eco Reps, and with the help of USGBC MA and National Grid's Green Apple Day of Service Mini Grant, this student-managed initiative will provide a checklist designed to help our faculty and staff save energy in their offices through behavior change.
The ‘Energy Saver’ checklist is a simple tool that provides clear direction for behavior change, which is embedded in a monthly calendar. Concise checklist items aimed at helping to promote energy awareness and energy reduction in offices all over campus include: turn off all lights, close window shades, and turn off space heaters, etc. This decision to present the checklist in a calendar format was made carefully. We see calendars almost daily and we are used to them. Because of their familiar format, the calendar becomes a helpful aid in promoting behavior change. Also, using the format of a calendar allows for the checklist to be adapted to the season as energy conservation strategies change.
These benefits of a checklist designed to help power down offices are impressive. Checklists allow for the individual to focus on his or her usual daily tasks without putting much thought into the bulleted list. Thus, time, money, and general effort can all be saved with the help of a good checklist. On Green Apple Day of Service, we distributed the calendar to Clark University’s 652 faculty and staff members. Faculty and staff who return all months of the supplied calendar with their checklist completed to Clark University’s office of sustainability will receive an honorable prize – lunch with our President, David Angel. The goal is to have a measurable impact on Clark’s Climate Action Plan goals.
The ‘Energy Saver’ checklist aims to promote behavior as a means of increasing energy awareness and personal efforts toward energy reduction. Clark University students and Eco Reps have illustrated that powering down really does make a difference. Students of Wright Hall, one of our freshman dorms, reduced energy by 67% in a Thanksgiving Break Powerdown contest; all the dorms averaged a 48% reduction! Supporting behavior change among faculty and staff with this student-led initiative is the next step. While they are by no means insignificant, the numbers cited above mean little if they only come about because of a one-time event. Instead, the hope is that the ‘Energy Saver’ checklist will allow for daily power downs to happen almost subconsciously when faculty and staff leave their offices and head for home – they will even take the habits home with them. Saving energy and reducing climate change is up to everyone, both at work and at home.
As a result of the research and audits, I realized that while continued technological improvements are important, wide-spread community behavior change is necessary to make a long-lasting difference in our energy use. Clark University Physical Plant has agreed to help fund my project and to match the value of a Green Apple Day of Service Grant.