How the University can reduce energy consumption without costly renovations

Rory Bonner, Contributing Writer

The University is an industry leader in sustainability: we have a Center for Sustainability & the Environment, the School of Management offers a Managing for Sustainability major, we design buildings to fit Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) specifications, and we have implemented a campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, which recently announced its new President’s Sustainability Council.

When it comes to energy efficiency, the University has been breaking barriers with advanced energy management systems installed in buildings. These systems emphasize HVAC and lighting efficiency. They come equipped with measurement tools, such as sensors, that provide real-time feedback.

But can we become more sustainable without costly renovations? Yes!

Implementing programmable smart plugs in wall sockets can save even more energy, and cost relatively little. These plugs can be programmed to run for specific lengths of time–either 30 minutes, three hours, or six hours–and then turn off immediately after.

The effects of smart plugs on student electricity use alone could be drastic. How many students leave their phones plugged into chargers all night? It takes no more than six hours for a phone battery to reach full its capacity. Once a charge is complete, the smart plug socket cuts energy to the plug. Smart plugs also work well with electronics that have standby modes or are plugged in for extensive periods of time.

A recent study on the campus of Stanford University showed that energy-efficient plug equipment accounted for 22 percent of overall energy use on campus and cost $6.7 million in electricity per year. Harvard University has also recognized the significance of smart plug equipment on energy use in their buildings, especially within laboratories.

The University should strive to follow in the footsteps of these two collegiate institutions. Anyone can see the value in reducing the current electricity waste with plugs around campus, especially when programmable smart plugs cost as little as $10.

Belkin Conserve Socket Timers retail for $9.99 each and can be bought in packs of three for $24.97. At the very least, the University should implement a test run in one or two buildings to determine whether or not significant savings can be generated.

The implementations of smart plugs will reduce overall energy use on campus. Using less electricity will reduce the University’s carbon footprint, which in turn, reduces its contribution to climate change. The marketability of this project can then be applied to recruiting efforts.

The most tangible benefit of these smart plugs is financial; using less electricity means a smaller electric bill. The plugs will pay for themselves over time and eventually save money for the University. As far as I know, a market for these devices exists.

Students on this campus want to do their part to support a progressive University. Developing a student-run study to test and measure the benefits of these plugs fits perfectly into the University’s mission of higher education. It also gives the students a sense of ownership over the positive change.

The Bucknell University Green Fund could invest in this study; the fund was established to finance greening projects on campus that will pay back over time. If the University doesn’t directly pursue this initiative, then perhaps a club or other student organization may be willing to spearhead it. We have the power to make positive changes one small step at a time.

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