Kill-A-Watt: A Campaign to Increase Energy Efficiency on the Columbia University Campus

Friday, May 05, 2006

Suggestions for Administration- Implementation

- The information presented in the previous blog-posts was distributed to the students as a pamphlet that was presented to the class during our Power Point Presentations.
-I will approach Mailing Services over the summer with this proposition. If they decline, there are a couple of options for us. We could either put them in mailboxes ourselves, or personalize them, or conserve paper and switch to an electronic form of information dissemination. If we decide to distribute the pamphlets over the summer, they will be placed in student mailboxes over the summer and there will be a couple of designated locations (to be determined) on campus throughout the year for distribution of information.
- A copy of the pamphlet will be put in the packet for incoming first-year students during the New Student Orientation Program 2006
- A link to our blog ( and Facebook group was placed on the message ticker on CTV (Channel 37;
- CTV News is working on the story to be aired in Fall 2006
- Over the course of the summer, an infomercial is going to be compiled. Once it is put together, it will be aired on CTV daily at least 2 or 3 times a day.

Suggestions for Administration- Cost-Benefit Analysis

- Proposition concerning monetary awards to individuals/departments might seem costly, but any the amount saved from conserving the energy would greatly exceed the amount the college would have to pay as a monetary reward.
- Putting 2,800 monitors (an approximation of the total number of administration, faculty and student owned computers) in Power Save Mode should be mandatory. It will save the College $49,000 and 574,000 kWh, enough to light 460 "average" homes for a year.
- The reduction of emissions from the power plants that produce the College’s electricity will be 411 tons of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), which is equivalent to removing 71 cars from the road, or planting 112 acres of trees. If a similar policy would be implemented throughout the United States, 61370115.37 tons of carbon dioxide emissions would be eliminated, an equivalent of removing 4.4 billion cars off the road, and planting 488 million acres of trees.

The information and financial breakdown was based on the information provided

Suggestions for Administration- Computers

- All departments and offices should be encouraged to conserve energy by turning off departmental and own computers. As of now, there are at least 200 computers on campus that work year-round without ever being shut-down. Although it might be crucial in terms of software support, it is more cost-effective to train the faculty and administration on how to be able to tailor the settings for their computer, or encourage them to purchase (and, perhaps, subsidize) portable computers that could be taken home. That would reduce the number of hours spent in the college, and encourage using energy at a different location, that would greatly diminish college’s energy consumption. Kill-A-Watt will be contacting Residential Computing Program Coordinator over summer of 2006 to discuss this possibility in greater detail.
- Individual departments are not billed for their energy usage. Actually, they have no indication as to how much energy is consumed. Thus, we could either send them a summary of energy used each month, or the college could implement a monetary reward for the department/office/dorm that would have the least energy consumption per person.
- It should be a requirement for administration and faculty could manually turn their computers by power saving mode by going to Settings/Control Panel/Display/Screen Saver/Monitor Power.

The information and financial breakdown was based on the information provided

Suggestions for Administration- Lighting and Electricity

- Lighting accounts for 5-10 percent in average American home. It costs $50-$150 per year per dorm room. Appliances and portable tools draw energy even when they are not "on". Although it might seem like they do not require much energy (how much could an electric toothbrush, a laptop and a lamp consume?). However, together they might use more power than a refrigerator. If the equipment is connected to a remote control, it is drawing power 24/7. If the students were encouraged to unplug them, or if all of the appliances could be connected to a power strip that would be turned off when not in use, it could save about $100 per dorm room per year, saving Barnard College at least $25,000 every year
- Use of day-light should be made. More classes should be scheduled at times when daylight is still available. If the space permits, classes should not be scheduled for the evening. For students, the desks should be positioned by the window in order to make use of the natural light.
- Rooms should be regularly re-painted- lighter wall color will help the light to get deeper into the room.
- Venetian blinds should be installed in all buildings on campus. Venetian blinds are modifications of shades, they are just as easy to maintain as the pull-down shades that Barnard is currently providing, and, if maintained properly, could reduce allergies of the residents of the room/suite.
- The background light level should be reduced and reliance shifted to task lighting. A lot of energy could be saved by concentrating light just where it's needed and reducing background or ambient light levels. For example, if a student is reading a textbook, only the desk light should be on. The overhead light should not be used. Not will it only concentrate the light in a certain area and improve the quality of lighting, the studies show, it would be beneficial for student’s eyesight,
- Energy efficient lighting equipment should be installed
- Incandescent lights should be used wisely. Higher-wattage bulbs are more efficient than lower-wattage bulbs. In order to provide the same amount of light provided by a single 100-watt bulb, two 60-watt bulbs and four 40-watt bulbs are needed.

The information and financial breakdown was based on the information provided

Suggestions for Administration- Insulation

- In a recent survey (, it showed that 80% of the houses built before 1980 were not well insulated. Since most of Barnard buildings (except for Sultzberger that was finished in 1989) were built prior to 1980, it is crucial that up-to-date insulation would be installed.
- Improved and proper insulation will maintain uniform temperature and will increase comfort of the administration, faculty and students.
- Residents of the building facing Broadway are experiencing great discomfort and inconvenience due to the excessive amount of noise generated on Broadway regardless of the time of the day. Proper insulation will soften the sound and increase satisfaction of the residents.
- It is not feasible to insulate all the building on campus within the near future due to the lack of proper funding and sufficient human resources, so an effort to provide efficient insulation during the winter months should be made. Dormitories should be the primary focus; statistically, dormitory buildings are the greatest consumers of electricity on any college campus. With efficient insulation, they will consume less, which in turn, will provide money for a college-wide renovation of insulation.

The information and financial breakdown was based on the information provided

Suggestions for Administration- Government Sponsored Programs

Government Sponsored Programs
Energy Star Program

- If Barnard College were to implement energy-efficient appliances, government would be able to give us a tax break that would be able to cover possible budget short-falls. Tax-exempt lease-purchase agreements would be provided by the government if energy-efficiency achieved will be at least 25 % less than current energy consumption.
- A tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is available to owners or designers of new or existing commercial buildings that save at least 50% of the heating and cooling energy of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001. Partial deductions of up to $.60 per square foot can be taken for measures affecting any one of three building systems: the building envelope, lighting, or heating and cooling systems. We were unable to communicate with the facilities to see if it was taken into consideration when developing the action plan for Barnard facilities. However, regardless of the fact whether or not it was accounted for originally, if Barnard College would be eligible for the money, it could always be put to use.

The information and financial breakdown was based on the information provided by:

Consequences of Our Behavior

Each and every one individually affects the state of the planet. The choices that we make in every day life shape the future of the planet and determine the future of the upcoming generations.
When we use electricity, gases like carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere. The concentration of gases in the atmosphere steadily increases, and it will eventually cause environmental changes that will be irreversible. Over the past century, the concentration of the aforementioned gases in the atmosphere increased by 25%.

Acid Rain
When sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, they combine with the water particles. A chemical reaction takes place, and sulfuric acid and carbonic acids appear. These acids fall on the Earth as rain. Acids contaminate various ecosystems, such as ponds, lakes, and soil, and diminish biodiversity or can make the entire ecosystem cease to exist. Acid rain damages trees and causes erosion, decreasing the duration of plant life, and causing erosion of human-constructed structures.

Air Pollution
Combustion of fossil fuels that is used to generate energy both in the power plants and motor vehicles causes carbon formation of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Cars are the primary polluters in the state of New York. According to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, there are 10476513 motor vehicles currently registered in the state. Air pollution has direct and irreversible effect on flora and fauna. It can diminish the growth rate of a plant, cause to stop growing or die altogether. If the previously mentioned events are taking place simultaneously and affecting a great number of plants, biodiversity suffers, since every successive food level has no resources to sustain their lives.

Global Warming
The “Greenhouse Effect” causes the temperature on our planet to rise, causing irreversible changes in flora, fauna, and ecosystems.

This blog posting was based on the information by:

Environmental Protection Agency

Energy Beyond Electricity

People tend to think of energy only in terms of electricity;however, there are various types of energy. When people raise cattle, they use biomass, and invest energy into the plants. Fossil fuels that are used as an industrial resourse, contain and omit energy. Fossil fuels are used to produce any type of product, package and transport. Through being educated consumers, we can in turn reduce our effect on the environment.

Simple ways to make a difference (written as they would appear in the pamphlet):
-Try to minimize wasteful consumption. For example, if you have a choice, use more local products, since they require fewer resources to be transported to you. The smaller the distance the product had to travel, the less pollution was generated.
-Products that are advertised to the public usually have an elaborate package. The packaging itself uses a lot of resources, and at times it costs more than the product itself. It will be cheaper for you and better for the environment if you buy more products with less packaging.
-Trust your senses. Do not believe everything that advertisements say. An average person is bombarded with about 3,000 of them a day, and they can manipulate your buying decisions.
-Buy local produce from farmers’ markets. The energy for transportation and packaging is saved.
-Stay away from disposables. Over 200 billion of non-biodegradable utensils like bottles, cans, cups, and plates are thrown out every year. Opt out for glass and metal, since both are easily recyclable. Styrofoam and plastic products use should be diminished or eliminated altogether.
When grocery shopping, do not use plastic bags for each load. Try to reuse the old ones, or get a biodegradable and recyclable paper one, or bring in your own bag.
-Be aware of the food you consume. It takes three times as many resources to produce one gram of meat protein than wheat protein. Also, pork and beef are the most resource-intensive types of meat, so try to curb the intake.
-Consume certified organic foods. These types of food only use natural pesticides control (compare to three billion pounds of pesticides that are currently being used all over the world).
Reuse, reuse, and, once again, reuse. Use your imagination and creativity to at least partially reuse the item you would otherwise dispose of.
-Recycle. It will help to diminish the amount of virgin materials, for example, wood, used in the production process.
-The lower the environmental effect of the product or service you are using, the better. If you have a choice between a hybrid car and a sport utility vehicle, opt out for the hybrid car.
-Check for energy efficiency. Purchase Energy Star™ products.
-Use clothing made of organic cotton.
-Use phosphate-free detergents and soaps. You will notice the difference in the products you treat with them (they will last longer), and will diminish the amount of pollutants annually dumped into the water streams.
-Use durable products. You will throw away less, and, essentially, spent less.
-Use fewer trees. Use tree-free paper or paper from the recycled materials. Try not to use wooden products that are going to be disposed immediately after (for example, wooden chopsticks).
-Do not use products made of endangered species. When purchasing a plant or an animal, make sure you know where it came from.
-If you have an opportunity to get involved with local group promoting resource conservation, do so. For Barnard community, such a group would be BarnardEarth.

Some of the information in this blog entry was based on the information by:
Union of Concerned Scientists
P.O. Box 9105 Two Brattle Square
Cambridge, MA 02238
Tel: 617 547 5552

Energy and Its Sources

Many of us take energy for granted. Throughout the day, we check our e-mail accounts, make phone calls, and heat food in a microwave. At night, we do not think twice about turning on the lights to study, or go watch TV if there is nothing better to do.

The blackout of 2003 demonstrated how vulnerable and how dependent on electricity we were and are. Within minutes, hundreds of years of the civilization development were erased. People were in the same state as their ancestors were in, one-on-one with nature. Without modern electricity-powered devices, they were helpless.
We rarely pause to think that the major sources the energy our society uses nowadays are neither endless nor renewable. There is a limit to how much the man can take advantage of the nature.
The greater part of the population is not aware of the sources of energy. A lot of people are also not aware of the consequences of their actions. In my part of the project, I decided to explain various ways of energy generation, its usage and eventual impact on the environment.
Fossil fuels
Fossil fuels are remains of organisms that lived centuries ago. It took hundreds of years of natural chemical processes to convert the remnants to this form. Natural gas, oil, and coal are just a few examples of them. Although it took thousands if years to get produced, mankind consumes such an immense amount of fossil fuels within a month.
United States of America use fossil fuels for about 85% of its energy. Every week, an average American utilizes an equivalent of 300 shopping bags of natural resources. If the rate of consumption is not diminished, we will run out of coal in 130 to 200 years, natural gas in 60 to 120 years, and oil un 30 to 50 years.
Nuclear power
In December 1951, an experimental reactor produced the first electric power from the atom, lighting four light bulbs. Nuclear energy has been used since 1953 to power U.S. navy vessels, and since 1955 to provide electricity for home use.
Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona is the leading energy producer in the country. It generated 25,807,446 megawatt-hours of electricity in 2005, which is more than all of the energy generated from renewable sources combined.
The United States has 103 power plants, situated in 31 states. As of April 2006, there were 443 nuclear power plants all over the world, and thirty countries are operating them. There are twenty-seven nuclear power plants wunder the process of creation in 11 countries.
Nuclear energy is the world's largest source of emission-free energy. Nuclear power plants produce no controlled air pollutants, such as sulfur and particulates, or greenhouse gases. The use of nuclear energy in place of other energy sources helps to keep the air clean, preserve the Earth's climate, avoid ground-level ozone formation and prevent acid rain.
Uranium serves as the reactant in the chemical process that generates energy. Uranium and uranium oxide are quite common, so if it were to be become the main energy source, there would be enough fuel for a couple of centuries. However, uranium and especially its reaction products are highly radioactive, posing numerous threats such as mutations, and possible extinction to the plant life, biodiversity and environment as a whole.
Today, nuclear power plants—the second largest source of electricity in the United States. However, even though the producers are claiming an absolute safety of the plants and the industry’s by-products, a disaster that took place 20 years go proved otherwise. An explosion of the power plant in the city of Chernobyl took the lives of hundreds of people within the first month and claimed and still is claiming thousands of others every year. Besides, very little is known about the effects of by-products on the surrounding over an extended period of time (a thousand year or so), and it is hard to predict its effects.
Renewable energy
Renewable (“green”) energy is an energy that is regenerated through the natural processes. Major sources of renewable energy are solar energy, wind energy, geothermal and hydro energy.
This blog entry was compliled based on the information by:
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearing House
Department of Energy
P.O. Box 3048
Merrifield, VA 22116
Tel: 800 DOE EREC

Natural Resources Defense Council
40 West 20th St.
New York, NY 10011
Tel: 212 727 2700

Thursday, April 27, 2006

More on incentives...

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that incentive-based encouragement is the only way to get many students to be more energy efficient. I started the semester with a blog about 'students=sloths', and my views on that really have not changed much. In that way, I feel that the housing incentive Kill-A-Watt devised remains true to my personal gut instincts, as well. You can call it a pessimistic view, but I prefer to see it as realistic. This does not mean that I harbor ill will against my fellow un-energy efficient students (I myself am surely one of them in many respects), or that people who aren't energy efficient are "bad people," it simply means that some people need a personal advantage or reward for changing their habits in ways which may at first seem like impediments to your average lifestyle.

By no means am I saying that Kill-A-Watt's housing incentive is the 'be all and end all' (is that the correct phrase?) of energy efficiency incentives. It is simply an example of an incentive, because the college as well as the much broader scope beyond our campus needs to find creative ways to promote and encourage energy efficiency. Relying on good intentions or the ethical pressures of 'saving the earth' one kilawatt at a time is not enough to effect large scale change.

Incentive-Based Energy Efficiency

The Problem

In one word, the problem is apathy. Of course, there are some students that are highly self-motivated and conscious of their actions and of the environment, and are energy efficient because of this. Most students, however, are not so inherently ‘energy conscious.’ Currently, there is no reason why a student needs to conserve energy in their dorm room– it makes no difference in the life of a student how much energy they use. Whether they are incredibly wasteful or incredibly conservative in their energy use, at the end of the day the student has no responsibility to pay for the electricity they consume. There is no financial disadvantage to using a lot of energy, and no advantage to being conservative.
The importance of Incentive

In order to achieve results on a large scale, there must be an incentive for students to be more energy efficient when they normally would not be. Simply telling them that being energy efficient is “better” is not enough – there must be an incentive to motivate those students who are not inherently energy conscious.

The incentive must be something that most students care about, something important enough to get them to start thinking about their energy use. The incentive must be valued campus-wide. Financial incentive, for example, would not be a reasonable solution as it would provide motivation only to selective parts of the student body, not necessarily the student body as a whole.

Barnard’s Unique Incentive

Q: What can Barnard offer students that every student wants but costs the college nothing?

What do all students want that Barnard can provide them with at little to no cost in return for being energy efficient?

A: Better Barnard Housing Selection numbers!

Every spring, Barnard students go through the stress and hassle of getting Housing for the next year. Friendships are broken, hours are spent planning and strategizing over housing arrangements. The housing lottery system leaves very little agency to the individual student, and can be a very stressful procedure. Housing is very important to the students because there is such a discrepancy between the possible living situations at Barnard.
Housing could be a very motivating incentive for students. It is the ultimate motivation tool for Barnard, as well, because it is so important to students yet the procedure for assigning housing could be changed at no cost to the school. If being more energy efficient corresponded to getting better housing, students would be far more conscious of their energy use.

How would it work?

The concept of the incentive based housing system is fairly simple. Every Barnard student would receive an “energy number” which corresponds to their energy use over an academic year. Instead of being a totally random housing lottery, housing would be assigned based on energy numbers. The less energy a student uses, the smaller her energy number becomes, which means that she goes higher up on the list and chooses housing earlier. A very energy inefficient student receives a larger energy number and goes further down on the housing list, choosing a room after more energy efficient students.

Technical Implementation

In order for the energy efficiency incentive system to work, there needs to be a way to accurately monitor and record the energy use of individual students. There seem to be many options for this. Although this exact type of monitoring system is not currently on the market, monitoring systems could be set up using components from various companies that do manufacture energy monitoring chips and the like. It seems that the easiest and cheapest way to achieve this would be to attach these monitoring chips into the wall sockets (and if more than one socket is connected to the same wiring in the same room, then you would only need one), which would send “packets” of information via the electrical lines to a central computer in each building. From there, the information could be easily disseminated and used in any way via the internet. I have been told that this would be possible for under $10 a socket, without any wholesale discount. If Barnard were to buy these on a large scale, they would be much less expensive.
This type of product has never been manufactured before. However, the technology is available and in existence. The components would need to be assembled in a way that has not been done before, but it would be technically possible with today’s technology to monitor the energy use of students.

Student Survey Results

Although 100 responses were sent in, 9 of them were disqualified because the survey had not been altered at all in them – the only explanation for this is that the “send survey” button was pushed without any information having been changed/given. The 9 surveys can be discounted.

The 91 surveys that were correctly filled out, though obviously from a small and not wholly representative group of students, are still an interesting slice of student energy habits on campus.

Here is some of the information and findings from the survey:

Who Responded?

This is an overview of who responded to the survey:

The respondents were mostly CC students, followed closely by BC students

Table 1: Total Respondents by School
CC: 41
BC: 30
SEAS: 12
GS: 8

The Class of 2009 was most represented in the group of respondents, which can presumably be attributed to the Facebook membership and level of activeness on Facebook. The Facebook is most popular with Freshmen students, so it makes sense that the respondents would hail mostly from this group.

Table 2: Total Respondents by Graduation Year
Class of 2009: 35
Class of 2008: 16
Class of 2007: 17
Class of 2006: 23

The respondents were predominantly female.

Table 3: Total Respondents by Gender
Female: 57
Male: 34

Would You Describe Yourself as Energy Conscious?

We asked this question to determine how students view themselves and their relationship to the designation of being energy conscious. It was most interesting to see which behaviors were different between students who described themselves as energy conscious and those who did not, as well as which behaviors were the same.

Overwhelmingly, the respondents described themselves as energy conscious. There was no significant difference between males and females in terms of the ratio of those describing themselves as energy conscious vs. not.

Table 4: “Would you describe yourself as energy conscious?”
Yes: 66
No: 25

When comparing BC to CC respondents, BC students were more likely to describe themselves as energy conscious.

Table 5: “Would you describe yourself as energy conscious?” BC-Respondents
Yes: 80%
No: 20%

Table 6: “Would you describe yourself as energy conscious?” CC-Respondents
Yes: 60%
No: 40%

There was almost no difference in terms of ownership of TVs, fridges, and computers in their dorm rooms when comparing self-described ‘energy conscious’ students vs. not.

Table 7: Computer, Fridge, and TV Possession in Respondents’ Rooms

90 students had computers in their rooms. 1 student did not.
64 students had a fridge in their room. 27 did not.
35 students had a TV in their room. 56 did not.

However, there was a fairly significant difference in energy use between self-described ‘energy conscious’ students and those who did not describe themselves as such. Apparently, the self-identification was fairly accurate in this sense in terms of how conscious they are of wastefulness.

When asked “Do you leave your computer on all the time” these were the responses:

Table 8: “Non-Energy Conscious” Respondents
Yes: 64%
No: 36%

Table 9: “Energy- Conscious” Respondents
Yes: 50%
No: 50%

The question “If you live in a suite, does anyone turn off the light in the kitchen/hallway/bathroom/living room at night?” resulted in similar patterns:

Table 10: “Non-Energy Conscious” Respondents
Never: 52%
Usually: 16%
Occasionally: 28%
Always: 4%

Table 11: “Energy- Conscious” Respondents
Never: 48%
Usually: 28%
Occasionally: 12%
Always: 18%

Though the ‘energy conscious’ respondents seemed to be more aware of turning off the lights in their suites at night, there was still a significant number of students who did not – 40% of self-described ‘energy conscious’ students lived in suites where the lights in the kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and/or living room are never turned off at night. That is a significant amount of energy going to lighting unoccupied rooms while everyone is asleep!

On-Campus Housing vs. Off-Campus Housing

Next, we analyzed the data based on respondents living in off-campus vs. on-campus housing. We wanted to see if there was a difference in the energy habits and patterns of students paying for their own electricity. On-campus students do not pay for their own utilities, and thus do not have a direct financial connection to or responsibility for their own energy use. Off-campus students, on the other hand, obviously have to pay for their own energy use and literally pay the price for being wasteful with energy.

Table 12: “Would you describe yourself as energy conscious?” Off-Campus Respondents
Yes: 87%
No: 12%

Table 13: “Would you describe yourself as energy conscious?” On-Campus Respondents
Yes: 72%
No: 28%

One of the most significant differences between off-campus and on-campus students was whether or not they turned off their computer at night. As Jen will explain in her section, leaving your computer on at night is incredibly wasteful. What a difference between the two groups!

Table 14: “Do you leave your computer on at night?” Off-Campus Respondents
Yes: 25%
No: 75%

Table 15: “Do you leave your computer on at night?” On-Campus Respondents
Yes: 56%
No: 43%

Another huge indicator of energy use differences between off-campus and on-campus students was in lighting. In response to the question “When are your lights on?” , 100% of off-campus respondents replied with “only when in room.” By contrast, 12% of on-campus respondents said they left their lights on “all the time.” Imagine the wasted energy of lights that are permanently on - even when their owners are out of the room, in class, gone for the day, etc!

Table 16: “When are your lights on?” Off-Campus Respondents
Only in room: 100%

Table 17: “When are your lights on?” On-Campus Respondents
Only in room: 87%
All the time: 12%


Clearly, when students are paying for their energy and when they are environmentally aware enough to designate themselves as “energy conscious,” far less energy is used. If the students who are not energy conscious could be persuaded to change their energy habits, the energy savings could be enormous.

Kill-A-Watt's Mission Statement

Mission Statement

The purpose of Kill-A-Watt is to research the current energy use and student habits on campus as well as find a way to decrease this energy use. Barnard is set to spend 1.9 USD million on electrical costs for the year of 2005-2006 alone. If students were more energy conscious, the possible energy savings would be substantial. In addition to being financially beneficial to the college, energy efficiency and consciousness on campus contributes to the larger picture of being environmentally aware, as well. Columbia’s energy use is comparable to that of a small city – this is no small contribution year in and year out to the depletion of our natural resources and contribution to negative energy related effects such as global warming.

Often times students are unaware of the ways in which they use and waste energy. Kill-A-Watt has set out to see which areas of student energy habits provide room for improvement through a survey of students, as well as compile suggestions for students of ways in which they can increase their energy efficiency.

Kill-A-Watt understands the need for incentive in promoting energy efficiency. Our final paper includes an idea for one way in which the college could provide incentive for students to be more energy efficient. The proposal is an incentive-based housing system which would rely on students' energy efficiency to determine housing selection times. Given enough incentive, even the most apathetic, ‘anti-energy-conscious’ student could be driven to energy efficiency.

We have also researched an extensive list of ways in which students can decrease their energy use. This list of suggestions is especially helpful for students who would like to be more energy efficient, but are not sure how to do so beyond just turning off their lights at night.

In the upcoming semester, the student run Columbia television station, CTV, has agreed to run advertisements and informational spots about energy efficiency and how students can be more energy conscious in their daily lives. This is one more way in which Kill-A-Watt has been and will be spreading the message of the importance of and ways for students to be conscious, efficient energy users.

We have used the social networking group of Facebook ( to great success this semester in encouraging students to visit our ELEA blog as well as fill out the survey on student energy habits from which we have gleaned statistical information. The Facebook has provided us with a medium and a resource for connecting students at Columbia University with our contribution to energy efficiency. We will continue to use it as a vehicle for spreading the message of energy efficiency on campus.

Kill-A-Watt's Action Plan

Project Title/What’s the topic?

Kill-A-Watt: Increasing Energy Efficiency On Campus

Passion/Why does this matter?

The amount of electricity consumed by Columbia University is comparable to that of a medium sized town. Columbia provides heating, cooling, and electricity for six million square feet, the same as 3000 homes or 5400 apartments. Heating, cooling, and generating power for the thousands of devices and appliances on campus is quite a feat. Generating this energy, however, contributes to emissions that can be detrimental to our environment. When we burn fossil fuels carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution, the average annual concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased. Carbon dioxide is a ‘greenhouse gas’- that is, it forms a dense layer around the earth, which prevents heat from escaping. The rising temperature that results is leading to climate chaos, and we are already beginning to see the effects of this. Around 30 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere comes from the energy used in our homes, therefore reducing this factor will make a significant difference. By making Columbia University more energy efficient, we will reduce our contribution to the harmful emissions being released by energy generation.

Problem/What’s the scope of the problem?

Energy inefficiency is a problem that affects most of the world. Almost all structures, public and private, have some kind of energy sink hole. Clearly, one cannot even attempt to reform all of the wasteful energy practices around the world. We will focus on improving the situation at Columbia University, and hopefully our progress can serve as a model for other communities.

Point of View/What’s the focal point of the problem?

The focal point of the problem is the strain that our ever-increasing energy use puts on the environment. Increasing efficiency is one way of countering this by making more out of less energy. As students at Columbia University, we have a unique perspective and insight into the lives of the student body, as well as an interest in keeping Columbia’s costs low while improving lifestyles and the environment.

Perspective/What’s been done/what’s happening now?

Columbia has already made a great start. In 2001, Columbia University was able to reduce their energy expenditures by $2million. They achieved this by shifting the type of energy used at the University’s power plant- steam and electricity. Almost half of the University’s electrical consumption for air conditioning was shifted onto the steam driven boilers and chillers. The steam and cold water produced is piped through campus to heat and cool over 60 campus buildings. They were able to make additional energy savings by reinsulating more than 15 miles of pipes that carry steam and cool water to campus buildings.

The College has also installed energy saving devices such as timers and sensors into some public spaces as well as dorm rooms. The timers regulate the light switches in rooms, so that energy is not being wasted while the room is unoccupied. Barnard College has yet to install these types of energy saving devices – finding out why and how this can be remedied will be questions our project will answer.

Plan/What can I do?

Impressing the importance of energy efficiency on students is not an easy task. Kill-A-Watt has researched the ways in which student energy habits vary. We have done this by conducting a survey on energy habits and compiled and analyzed the data. The most striking results show the differences between on-campus and off-campus student energy habits. On-campus students have no financial disadvantage to being energy efficient, and no advantage to being conservative. Our research confirms that on-campus students are more prone to being wasteful in their energy habits than off-campus students (who pay for their own utilities).

We have also developed a proposal for an incentive-based housing system which would rely on students’ energy efficiency to determine housing selection times. This could be one way in which the college could provide an incentive for on-campus students to be more energy efficient, and in turn increase the energy savings of the college.

Students’ energy habits can have a profound impact on energy use. Kill-A-Watt has researched and found ways in which students can be more energy efficient. We have compiled ways in which students can be more energy efficient in their daily lives, decreasing the overall energy use on campus. We have disseminated this information through pamphlets, our Facebook group (which boasts over 120 members), as well as in the upcoming year through informational spots on energy efficiency which will run on CTV.

Product/What’s the outcome?

The main objective of the project is to promote more energy efficient living by the individual students on campus as well as encourage and where possible facilitate the purchase of energy efficient appliances and products for on-campus use.
By increasing Columbia’s energy efficiency the students and university can save money while reducing our impact on energy resources (and of course all of the implications draining our energy resources entails!):

It is possible to conserve and use energy more efficiently without placing a strain on the individual or impeding on their lifestyle. Energy efficiency is achievable with the same amount of time and money currently invested in less efficient options.

Finding ways to conserve and make our university more energy efficient will also be beneficial to our campus financially. Saving energy will save money and reduce the bills of all students on campus. By using Columbia’s campus as an example, energy efficiency could be improved at other campuses nationwide, as well. Implementing energy efficiency measures are a way to improve both the state of our environment and the state of our bank accounts.

People/Who’s the audience?

The audience is the student body, faculty, and administration of Columbia University. The students will benefit from buying energy efficient appliances for their dorm rooms, and the university will benefit from cost-saving efficiency in public spaces.

Purpose/What’s to be gained?

The individual, the university, and the environment as a whole will benefit from increased energy efficiency. Students and the university can benefit financially in the long run, and the environment will be spared even a little bit of harmful emissions.

Potential Savings
Payback time
Energy saving light bulbs
7 months
Lag water tank and pipes
1-2 years
Cavity wall insulation
3-5 years
Central heating controls
2-5 years
Floor insulation
$176 (DIY)
4-7 years

Possible partnerships/ who’s interested?

Columbia University administration and students will be interested if we can show how cost-effective being energy efficient is. Finding ways in which students can be more energy efficient is valuable to the college in terms of energy cost savings. Barnard alone is set to spend 1.6 USD million this year on electrical costs; any part of that huge expense that can be cut down on through students’ energy efficiency is valuable to the college.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tricking People into Caring

I was on the check out line at the grocery store yesterday when I noticed the "Special Green Issue" of Vanity Fair on the shelf. After thumbing through it, I decided to get the magazine for inspiration.

The issue contains profiles ranging from conservative CEOs to libral activists, all of whom are environmentally conscious. It also includes a brochure titled "What You Can Do: 50 Ways to Help Save the Planet". There are even segments about Earth friendly products right next to the standard Gucci ads. The whole thing made save energy seem like a very posh thing to do.

It made me think of the different ways that one can pitch a conservation campaign. A large part of our campaign has been figuring out how to convince the greatest number of students to listen to what we're saying. I've been focusing on providing useful information to students who already have an interest in conserving energy for whatever reason.

Shavanna has been devising ways to convince more students more care about saving energy. Her idea is to implement a program in which a student's housing lottery number is affected by the amount of power she uses in her dorm room. This is a great way to make students realize that the energy they use affects their everyday life. We need to carry the idea farther and market energy conservation in different ways to different people. We cannot just really on students who care about the environment, we need to start to appeal to the more personal reasons for participating in our campaign.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I know what you're thinking: An entire post on lighting? Does she think I'm a moron? Before I begin I promise that I will say more than turn off your lights.

With that said, I want to start off with a friendly reminder to turn your lights off when you leave your room. It's a simple habit that can save a lot of energy. It's also something that you should be able to do no matter how busy you are. You won't be late to class for taking an extra second to turn your lights off.

Now on to the less obvious tips. Try to decorate with light colors. Dark colors absorb light, causing you to use more energy in lighting you room. If you use light colors to decorate, you will relay more on natural sun light. Not only will this conserve energy, it will make stressful times such as studying for finals a little more tolerable.

The types of lights you use in your dorm also play a part in your room's energy efficiency. One large light bulb is more efficient than several small ones. The efficiency of incandescent light bulbs, as well as most other light sources, increases with wattage. This means that one 100-watt incandescent bulb provides approximately the same amount of light as two 60-watt bulbs or four 40-watt bulbs, but consumes less energy. Compact fluorescent lights should also be used instead of incandescent bulbs whenever possible. Compact fluorescent lights are three to four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last ten times longer.

Like all of the other suggestions presented in this blog, turning off lights when they're not in use and making smart choices when purchasing additional lighting for your room are extremely easy things to do. Unlike many other good habits, energy efficient choices are just smarter, not harder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Energy Star

We all have power strips in our dorm rooms that are loaded with plugs for various chargers, a computer, and several other electronics that we would never give up. We assume that since these devices are not constantly in use they are not constantly using energy. Electronics don't use energy if they're turned off and not in use, right? WRONG!

40% of all electricity used to power home electronics is used while the electronics are turned off. For the U.S., this is the amount of energy produced by 17 power plants. Clock displays and remote controls use energy even when the electronic device is off. Even cell phone and other battery chargers suck power out of the wall when the phone is not connected. Conventional battery chargers can draw as much as 5 to 20 times more energy than is actually stored in the battery, even when the charger is not charging the product.

Obviously, the most efficient way to use electronics is to only plug them in when they are in use. However, if you're not quite that motivated, you can improve your room's efficiency by choosing energy star products. Energy Star is a government-backed program that helps the public protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. The average America home contains two TVs, a VCR, a DVD player, and 3 telephones. If these electronics were replaced with energy star models, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by over 25 billion pounds. This would have the same effect as taking 3 million cars off the road.

More energy is used to power a non-Energy Star DVD player when it is turned off than when it is being used to play a DVD. Energy Star DVD players use as little as a quarter of the energy. The same holds true for all of the other appliances mentioned above. Replacing old, worn-out electronics with new, Energy Star products makes a big difference.

The next time you buy any electronics, make sure it is Energy Star qualified. A wide range of brands offer Energy Star products. The Energy Star Website has further information, including guides to buying energy efficient devices.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Yale Climate Initiative

The concept of energy efficiency on a college campus is overwhelming. The more I read and learn about it, the more I discover that it is a much larger issue than we had initially thought. The pitfalls and obstacles involved in creating a comprehensive energy efficient campus are innumerable. The considerations and measurements that need to be known before one even begins to start to think about planning for energy efficiency on a large scale are significant. This has been my struggle to stay motivated when it seems like such an uphill battle. I have to remind myself to think step by step, and not be discouraged when my research and work seem to come full circle with nothing tangible to show for it.

Partially to motivate myself, I’ve been intensively researching other college campuses across the U.S. that are notable for their energy-efficiency related progress to see what they did, where they started, who was responsible for the change. In this research I stumbled across the Yale Climate Initiative, a student-run and initiated project committed to reducing Yale’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and increasing Yale’s energy efficiency. The nine students involved in the initiative attend the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, which itself uses energy only from renewable sources. The Initiative has been researching energy use at Yale over the past few years. In 2004, they presented the University with a detailed greenhouse gas emissions inventory based on 2002 data – the most recent available at the time. I have been reading a Working Paper of theirs from October 2005 (so, fairly recently) that reports on the results of the Initiative. Reading this was very exciting and motivating to me, even if their group consists of nine graduate students who have devoted all of their time to researching this project. I am currently trying to find a contact e-mail address from someone in their group or at their school – I have e-mailed an administrator at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and asked if they could put me in contact with anyone from the YCI. What would be great about this if I successfully make contact with them is that I could easily hop on a train to New Haven and speak with someone from their group in person and see what they have been doing. Seeing what the YCI has accomplished could be great inspiration and provide us with more ideas for accomplishing our own goals.

Here is the YCI’s Working Paper I referred to:

as well as a Yale newspaper article about their project:

I was also poking around on the The Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website (, and found: Energy Solutions for University Buildings. Here are some statistics about University energy use that I found on the site:

University Buildings
32% Space Heating
24% Water Heating
22% Lighting
05% Space Cooling
17% Other

Energy Usage Data
End Use
Consumption (TBtu)
Space Heating
Space Cooling
Water Heating
Office Equipment

Life and Numbers

Lots of people, myself included, tend to think only of things that pertain to them. It is much harder to put things in perspective, and imagine the picture in general. Kill-A-Watt project will include the facts provided below to give the readers an understanding of how their own consumption play a role in the welfare of the world.

Unplug your gadgets:
-Appliances and portable tools draw energy even when they are not "on".
Although it might seem like they do not require much energy (how much
could an electric toothbrush, a laptop and a lamp consume?). However,
together they might use more power than a refrigerator. If the equipment
is connected to a remote control, it is drawing power 24/7. Turning
those items off will save a lot of energy.
- If every American home (and college campus) would have the most
energy-efficient refrigerators, 10 large power plants could be
eliminated. When you are buying something, check the efficiency ratings
for it. Look fot the Energy Star (TM) label for the most efficient

-turning down the thermostat even by 2 degrees prevents the release of 500
pounds of carbon dioxide.
-Fuelwood provides nearly one-third of the energy needs of developing
-The U.S consumes more energy per person than any country in the world;
with only 6% of the world's population, it uses almost 30% of the world's
-Since 1950, the Earth's population hasd doubled, and the amount of fossil
fule burned for energy has quadrupled.
-The U.S. uses fossil fules for 85% of it's energy. At the rate they are
being burned, coal reservees are estimated to last 130 to 200 years;
natural gas, 60 to 120 years; and oil, 30 to 50 years.
-New York State uses nuclear power for nearly 40% of itsa electricity.One
nuclear plant can generate over 30 tons of highly radioactive waste
-Renewable sources of energy only provide 2% of the total energy nowadays.
-Each week, the average American consumes the equivalent of 300 shopping
bags filled with natural resources.

Compiled based on the information provided by American Museum of Natural History,

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Turn your computer off! Well, after you read this.

Computers are an integral part of our lives at college. Because of this, and the fact that you're staring at your monitor while reading the blog, they seem to be a logical place to start conserving energy.

The average desktop, which is made up of the "box", a monitor, and a printer, uses about 100 watts of electrical power. 15-17 inch monitors add 50-150 watts. Laser printers use as much as 100 watts when printing. Ink jet printers are much more efficient, using as little as 12 watts when printing and 5 watts while idle.

The user's habits play a large part in the energy costs of an individual computer. If a 200 watt computer is used all day and night everyday, the annual electrical cost would be over $125. In contrast, if you operate the same system for 40 hours per week, the annual energy cost would be about $30.

If your screen saver appears on your monitor for more than 5 minutes, you are wasting energy. Screen savers may save the phosphors in older monitors; however they serve no purpose in newer ones. Further, they do not save any energy.

The best way to conserve while your computer is turned on is to enable energy saving features. Here's how:

Windows 95 and above
1. Click on Start
2. Go to Settings
3. Click on the Control Panel

For the Monitor
4. Open Display
5. Click on Screen Saver tab
6. Check "Low Power Standby" and "Shut off Monitor" boxes
7. Select time for enabling sleep (10 minutes or less is suggested)

For Hard Drive
4. Open Power
5. Check "allow Windows to manage power" box
6. Click on Disk Drive tab
7. Select time for enabling sleep (10 minutes or less)


1. Click on Apple Icon in top left screen
2. Select Control Panel
3. Click on Energy Saver
4. Open Sleep set up
5. Select time for system sleep (10 minutes or less)
6. Select time for display sleep (10 minutes or less)
7. Select time for hard disk sleep
8. Open Schedule
9. Select time for start up computer
10. Select time for shut down computer

While power saving options are good, the most efficient way to operate a computer is to turn it off when it is not in use. When you are asleep or not in your room, your computer should be off. Is it really essential to be signed on to instant messenger 24 hours a day? If we all make small changes in our computing habits, the small amounts of energy saved daily will add up.

For more information:
Conservation Tips

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