Cut University of Iowa energy consumption 10 percent by 2013. That’s one of the ambitious challenges put forth by the University’s Energy Conservation Advisory Council—a challenge many UI students are rising to meet with an energy all their own.
Student staff in Facilities Management, groups like Engineers for a Sustainable World, and University of Iowa Student Government (UISG) leaders are shaping energy policy, spreading the conservation message, and showing peers how to reduce power usage. Their enthusiasm for the cause is built on the knowledge that good habits start early.
“Beginning in your first year of college, you really define how you’re going to live the rest of your life,” says Addison Stark, UI senior and past UISG vice president. This spring, he and other students debuted the I-Conserve Residence Hall Challenge, a pilot program aimed at building awareness and sharing strategies for conservation.
Since they don’t see electric bills, most students living on campus have no idea how much power they use. The challenge provides quick energy-use audits that show where to conserve.
Turn up the temp in your fridge. Turn on your computer’s power-saving features. Pull the plug on unused appliances. Stark—shown above during an energy audit in UI junior Carole Peterson’s Currier Hall room—says little changes like these add up to big savings.
That philosophy drives the University’s overall energy strategy as expressed in a pioneering plan unveiled this year. The 10 percent reduction goal is just one element of the plan, which also sets a 15 percent target for energy from renewable sources and outlines tactics for making campus energy systems more reliable.
All told, the plan is one of the most comprehensive in the Big Ten and an example of the University’s conservation leadership. Iowa was among the first schools to join the Chicago Climate Exchange, a reduction and trading system for greenhouse gases, and this fall will host the third annual UI Energy Expo to promote conservation and sustainability.
Smart energy policy will save the University more than $5 million for a two-year period ending in June. But for students intent on conservation, joining the campus-wide push is also about saving the world.
“Energy and environmental issues are going to be some of the greatest challenges our generation faces,” Stark says. “I think students understand this and come to these projects with a real passion.”