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

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