Beware. Halloween may be over, but vampires still lurk at night—energy vampires that is. These energy vampires take the form of your laptop, phone, TV, microwave and lamp cords. They selfishly suck energy and with no regard for conservation. Tonight concludes Drew it in the Dark, Campus Sustainability’s program to encourage students to reduce energy use by making changes to daily life like unplugging appliances when not in use. As a campus-wide competition, Drew it in the Dark challenged residence halls to reduce their electricity usage over a three-week period. The residence hall that reduces the most will win a pizza party.
Organized by Campus Sustainability Coordinator Tina Notas and Eco-Reps from each residence hall, the program’s mission is to “teach students good habits that can lessen our impact on climate change,” according to Notas. Each residence hall has an Eco-Rep responsible for promoting sustainability and living green in the residence halls by organizing programs and displaying information.
Notas explained buildings are equipped with a device that tracks daily electricity use and transmits the information to buildingdashboard.net/drew. Once online, the information translates into amount of energy used and carbon dioxide emission. She explained carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that “creates a thick blanket around the earth keeping in the heat which leads to climate change.”
Drew it in the Dark is part of Drew’s mission to become carbon neutral by 2035. According to Notas, carbon neutral means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to lessen the climate impact, such as increased intensity of natural disasters. These efforts include increasing the operational efficiency of vehicles, cooling, heating and lights. She said, “If we conserve energy, less electricity will be used and less carbon dioxide emitted, which means we have less of a contribution towards climate change.”
Student Sustainability Coordinator Ben Schaefer (’15) said, “The dashboard shows how much electricity is used per person to give a better perspective for students.” He explained the energy consumption graphs have a baseline reference of where the energy consumption should be. Currently Foster Hall leads the pack with an 8.1 percent reduction in energy consumption, followed by the Town Houses and McClintock Hall with 4.6 and 2.9 percent reductions, respectively.
The Eco-Reps hope this energy reduction competition will instill good, life-long habits in students. Brown Hall Eco-Rep Alexandra Van Grouw (’17) said, “People take energy for granted and that’s what we’re working against. Little things make an impact. People aren’t purposefully leaving lights on. It’s that they aren’t educated enough.” Tolley Hall Eco-Rep Kara Bradley (’17) added that as Eco-Reps they “promote environmental awareness in our own complex through projects.”
The two Eco-Reps explained their Get Caught Green Handed program. They recognize students who help the environment whether it’s turning off a light or recycling. “When we see them, we take a picture and post it our Twitter,” said Van Grouw. The ecologically-aware student receives a sticker and the photo is posted with #CaughtGreenHanded on @SustainableDrew. Schaefer said, “It’s really the small things that make a difference. You have to be conscious. Use lamps instead of overhead lights in the dorm. Don’t leave water running when you brush your teeth. Unplug appliances that aren’t in use.”
In her Pepin office, Notas demonstrated what goes on when you leave an appliance plugged in. Into the wall outlet, she plugged in a “Kill A Watt” meter. Her laptop was plugged into a surge protector that was plugged into the meter. The meter measures how much electricity is being used. When her laptop was on, the reading measured 22 Watts. While shut off, but still plugged in, the reading measured 0.6 Watts.
The reading became 0 Watts once Notas switched off surge protector. Switching off a surge protector is equivalent to unplugging the appliance. She explained this 0.6 Watts of energy being drawn is called phantom load or vampire energy.
Notas wants students to take away good habits from Drew it in the Dark that will benefit their own pockets in the future. She said, “After you graduate Drew and you move into an apartment, unplugging and turning off surge protectors will help you save money. Even when something’s off, it’s drawing power.”
Schaefer said, “Students should be thoughtful about the changes they make. Drew it in the Dark is not about not using electronics for six hours. It’s about small things making a big impact.” The winning residence hall will be revealed in an upcoming Drew Today announcement.