Sustainable U

A student in Liberty Terrace reads by natural light. (Photo by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 6, 2016) — You remember to turn off the light when you leave a room, but do you think about pulling the plug on your computer at the end of the day? What about switching off your monitor when you leave the room? Those dancing colors on your screensaver use about the same amount of power as when you’re typing a paper.

Tomorrow, plan to kick your energy-savings tricks into high gear with the start of this year’s Energy Campaign, a 10-week challenge to conserve energy and lower the University’s carbon footprint. The goal is to lower energy consumption by 10 percent, simply by changing behaviors.

That amounts to a million kilowatt hours — pretty substantial when you consider an average home uses 10,000-15,000 kilowatt hours per year.

So how do we get there? Turn off lights. Use the stairs instead of the elevators if you’re only going up or down a few flights. Plug devices into power strips and turn the switch off at night to reduce vampire energy use. Unplug your laptops and chargers when they’re not in use. Set your computer to sleep mode instead of a screen saver. And turn your computer off at night.

The Energy Campaign is organized by the University’s Office of Sustainability. There’s a "challenge" between residence halls — last year Freedom Apartments won, with a whopping 32 percent reduction in energy use.

The money saved through energy reduction at student housing goes to the office of Residential Life to use for sustainability-related projects. In 2010, the office began a bike share program with the money, and since then some energy savings money has been used to support that program, replacing bikes, parts and tools.

The Energy Campaign runs through Nov. 13, and the plan is to beat last year’s showing, when student residences reduced energy usage by a total of 14 percent. Academic buildings, however, only dropped by 6 percent, leaving an overall energy savings of 9 percent.

More Energy Savings Obtainable in Academic Buildings

People working in campus offices and academic buildings can reduce electrical usage by opening shades and turning off lights; enabling sleep mode on copiers, printers and fax machines; using shared printers instead of personal printers in each office; avoiding personal space heaters and refrigerators; and tuning off computers and hallway lights at the end of the workday.

There will be special programs during the Energy Campaign, including a "light bulb swaps" — a new compact fluorescent bulb for the incandescent in your desk lamp — and two special challenges: Take the Stairs Tuesdays and Power Down Fridays.

Maybe this year we can take campus energy savings all the way up to 11 percent.

The Energy Campaign is not the only thing the Office of Sustainability does. The office coordinates all campus programs related to environmental responsibility, from recycling and composting to education about climate change, and works to integrate sustainability into all facets of campus life.

And the office’s work is getting noticed. Three years ago, UAlbany made Sierra magazine’s Cool School rankings, listed at 87. This year the University moved up to 55 out of more than 200 participating schools. The improvement was a result of four major initiatives:

  • Increase in co-curricular engagement and establishing a heritage garden on campus
  • Increase in local food/sustainable procurement (from 20 to 30 percent)
  • More sustainability-related academic courses offered
  • Improvement in waste reduction by establishing composting in the dining halls

“The State University of New York strives to be one of the most energy-smart and environmentally friendly university systems in the world, and the University at Albany’s contributions toward this goal are highly commendable,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Congratulations to the entire campus community on this much-deserved national recognition.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, businesseducation, public health,health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare and sociology, taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.