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Universities Across the United States Make Strides in Energy Education

April 12, 2010 - 1:19pm


When I was in college, money wasn't exactly flying in the door. I ate enough frozen pizza to last a lifetime in the name of fiscal responsibility. But there were certainly better ways to save money than changing my diet, and now I know a few of them.

Energized students on campuses across the United States are learning at a young age just how much money and energy they can save by taking some easy, energy-saving steps. A new video on EERE's Energy Empowers website highlights an inspiring energy-saving contest held by a group at the University of Central Florida called UCF Sustainability and Energy Management.

The student-led group has held a contest for the last four years pitting the campus's dorms against each other to see which dorm can save the most energy. It's called "Kill-a-Watt," and it helps educate and mobilize the participating students to save energy today through simple measures like adjusting the set points on their air conditioners and using power strips with small appliances and electronics to cut off so-called phantom loads—electric equipment that use power even when turned off. (Also check out these good energy-saving tips for electronic and appliances.) Throughout the two-and-a-half-month contest, students can win prizes, and at the end of the contest, students in the winning dorm can win small scholarships. Sounds like a good start to me!

Last year's "America's Greenest Campus" contest challenged schools across the nation to compete to reduce their carbon footprints (PDF 937 KB) Download Adobe Reader. Students gained valuable tips from Let's Get Energy Smart and used customized, interactive carbon calculators on Climate Culture's Web site that help them live more energy efficiently and save money. Cash prizes of $5,000 were awarded to the school with the most participants—University of Maryland won with 2,257—and to the school with the largest carbon reduction per participant—Rio Salado College, which reduced CO2 by 4.4% per person.

On the West Coast, twelve California universities and three community colleges have built a student-led initiative that educates and engages students to save energy, to get green job training, and to improve the overall energy awareness of their student bodies. The Green Campus Program is part of the Alliance to Save Energy's outreach efforts.

Hundreds of campuses across the country are gearing up their sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives. A useful Web site from the Sustainable Endowments Institute called "The College Sustainability Report Card" rates campuses across the country on their sustainability activities. And the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's Web site delivers a wealth of resources for student groups to electrify the energy efficiency efforts on their campuses.

I wish I had gotten involved with an energy efficiency campaign when I was still in college—I might have been able to eat a little healthier—but I'm doing my part now to help get the word out.