Rethinking the University’s lightbulb usage

Lucia Smircich, Contributing Writer

It’s 11 p.m. on a Tuesday and I’m sitting in 022 Coleman Hall alone, doing anything but my Managerial Finance presentation. With Facebook poking me and Twitter tweeting me, the last thing I feel like reading is the financial statements of Apple. The classroom is standard: approximately twenty desks with a projector screen up front and a ceiling of old lights to brighten the basement’s learning environment. After a three-hour lacrosse practice of grueling conditioning and endless agilities, these 50 or so bulbs can’t keep my eyes open. Needless to say, the project goes undone and Professor McGoun is left unsatisfied in the morning.

Coleman Hall has been around for nearly 60 years, first erected in 1959. Modern luxuries such as PCs and color TVs weren’t even around when Coleman became a part of the University’s facilities. Those dusty lightbulbs have been brightening the classroom for who knows how long. I can’t blame the University for staying loyal to incandescent lamps; they have provided reliable lighting for over 100 years. It’s a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, the lights may not be broken, but the University’s stewardship to this world sure is.

At this University, classes begin as early as 8 a.m. and continue on as late as 10 p.m. That averages to around 14 hours of lighting per day. For 25,000 hours of use, or approximately two months in a classroom, 21 incandescent bulbs are needed. These bulbs use 60 watts of energy each, compared to one LED bulb utilizing just 10 watts of energy. If the numbers alone aren’t convincing enough, then the fact that the average life span of an LED bulb is over 20 times longer than an incandescent (1,200 hours vs. 25,000 hours) should make the University rethink its lightbulb usage. In the University’s Second Nature report, a strategic priority for advancing sustainability leadership is to develop a vision for and long-term commitment to sustainability. It will be very difficult to develop a vision with lighting that consumes immense amounts of energy for a high price. Long-term commitment is embedded in the investment of LED fixtures as a longstanding, durable lighting option that is both beneficial to the conservation of the University’s environmental impact and its financial expenses.

Leaders must take action in order to create value. Sustainability efforts must begin at the top of an organization. The University has been around for far longer than both LED lighting and general awareness of energy consumption in large institutions. Now is the time to lead in a sustainable fashion through integration in all campus departments. By taking advantage of Campus Energy Manager Steve Durfee’s abundant knowledge, the University can integrate energy-saving practices into an increasingly outmoded system.

Something as simple as replacing outdated lightbulbs with energy efficient lighting would create value on campus. Though I say that this task is simple, risks often accompany change. For an energy efficiency strategy that has a high upfront cost, it may be hard to trust the transition. However, how can the University call itself an institution of greater learning if it refuses to experiment? A good education requires risk-taking, and so must our efforts to reduce our consumption on this planet.

The name of the University’s campaign is “We Do.” We Do liberal arts education. We Do Division I athletics. We Do Greek life. We are unfortunately less audacious with campus-wide sustainable innovations. Boston University, a fellow Patriot League school, has replaced many of the lights across its campus with LED bulbs as an opportunity to create a unified standard of lighting for the community. Many other schools have begun to follow in the footsteps of this sustainable development. If another university can set a standard, why can’t we?

Replacing these outdated bulbs will save costs and positively impact the environment. The facts are clear–so clear, that maybe my eyes will stay open during the remainder of my late night studying.

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