MHC Launches New Energy Conservation Campaign

Posted: November 13, 2006

At the community breakfast on Thursday, November 9, President Joanne V. Creighton announced the kickoff of the College's new energy conservation campaign, The Big Turn Off.

"For reasons both global and local, we want Mount Holyoke to minimize its energy consumption," Creighton said, citing increased energy costs and the College's commitment to reducing its environmental footprint. Creighton noted that over the past ten years, heating costs have quadrupled and electricity costs have doubled. "We're calling this The Big Turn Off because energy waste is unappealing, unhealthy, and unwise, and because that's what we want you to do--turn things off."

Mount Holyoke's Energy Conservation Working Group, made up of faculty, staff, and students, will launch a number of campus-wide initiatives over the course of the year as part of the campaign.

"This is a huge opportunity, because people are really thinking about this at home," said Todd Holland, Five Colleges Energy Manager. "People are starting to make the association between home and institution, so coupled with the increased attention to climate change, it's something we can really tap into."

The first initiative will focus on "green computing" through a pledge campaign similar to last year's successful Million Monitor Drive, in which 77 percent of all students pledged to enable energy-saving features on their computers for annual savings estimated at $24,000. But money isn't all they saved. Using less electricity means fewer emissions were made by the power plants that generated the electricity: almost 200 tons of greenhouse gas were offset.

As an incentive for student participation, the College bought enough green energy to run all student computers for a year, adding another 180 tons of greenhouse gas offsets. That contract will be extended in December, upon successful completion of this year's drive. Similar to last year, Mount Holyoke will also compete with Smith and Amherst Colleges in the drive.

Pledges will be expanded this year to get faculty and staff, in addition to students, to continue to use energy-saving features, turn their computers off when they're not in use, turn printers and copiers off, use double-sided copying, and manage laptop batteries to maximize their life. This semester's campaign will also focus on getting the community to turn off lights, computers, and other equipment over the Thanksgiving and December breaks.

Other new initiatives this year will include an energy recovery loop in the Science Center (Carr and Kendade). By preheating or precooling incoming air with the outgoing lab exhaust, the College estimates it will save $46,000 per year by recovering enough energy to heat and cool the entire new residence hall. The greenhouse gas benefit to this project is very large because it will substantially reduce the fuel the College burns for heat; the savings are estimated at 400 tons per year. Installation will take place in December and January.

The Environmental Action Coalition (EAC), a student group, will be meeting with members of the community to help educate them about how they can save energy. Also new this semester, there will be a group of students from EAC--Residence Hall Energy Liaisons--working in each residence hall to promote energy conservation and answer student questions about heating. The Eco-Reps will also be visiting dorms during M & Cs to exchange lightbulbs. Replacing an incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent saves 75 percent of the energy (annual savings $20 per bulb), and the bulb lasts eight to ten times longer. Changing that one bulb will also offset 130 pounds per year of greenhouse gas, enough to fill a small office.

During the spring semester, a new Kill-a-Watt competition will be held for academic and administrative buildings. In the past, residence halls have competed against each other in electricity use. The program has saved $930,000 over 15 years and is thought to be one of the longest-running student energy conservation program in the country.

The Energy Conservation Working Group also will increase its education efforts with new features on its Web site, such as a tip of the week and a place for members of the community to submit ideas. Holland hopes these efforts will give people the tools they need to make smart changes in their energy use, and enable them to see that small changes add up quickly.

Several conservation initiatives have already been completed at the College. Vending misers were installed on 26 vending machines on campus to turn them off when not in use, saving about $4,000 per year. And 12 of the lowest-traffic machines were removed altogether, saving $6,200 per year.

Lighting upgrades have been completed throughout campus, including the replacement of lights in Howard Gym, resulting in both better and more efficient lighting--twice as bright with half the wattage. This is saving an estimated $5,000 per year. Occupancy sensors were installed in the field house, cutting lighting in half when the space is not in use and saving 17 percent of the energy.

"The greenest energy is energy not used," said Nancy Apple, director of environmental health and safety. "Shutting off lights and equipment when not in use can make a huge difference in energy consumption on campus, both in saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully, by the end of the campaign, turning off lights and equipment will be second nature and result in lasting savings for the College."

Annual Savings
Greenhouse Gas Offsets
Million Monitor Drive '05 $24,000 198 tons
Green Power Purchase '05   180 tons
Green Computing '06 $46,000 315 tons
Green Power Purchase '06   180 tons
Science Center Heat Recovery $46,000 400 tons/year
Changing 1,000 lightbulbs $20,000 65 tons/year
Vending Misers $ 4,000 11 tons/year
Vending Machine Removals $ 6,200 17 tons/year
Howard Gym Light Upgrade $ 5,000 24 tons/year

While this table does not represent a comprehensive total of all the energy efficiency measures Mount Holyoke College is implementing, they add up to saving $127,200 per year and offsetting 1,012 tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions (about 5 percent of last year's total).