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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

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.

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