Two Yalies are spearheading an effort to cut back on the University’s excess energy use.
Beginning at 6:00 a.m. this morning, a group of about 30 Yalies are monitoring outdoor light sources on Old Campus, Cross Campus and residential college courtyards over a 24 hour period in a study called “Energy Blitz.” The project aims to determine what changes can be made to the current outdoor lighting system to use less energy, and to increase student awareness and involvement in energy-related issues, said Chandrika Srivastava ’12, an organizer for Energy Blitz.
“I think when students are made aware of [energy use], they care,” Chelsea Cole ’12, another organizer for the program, said. “But they’re not as proactive about it as I think they should be.”
Energy Blitz is part of Cole’s and Srivastava’s final project for their environmental studies class, “Sustainability and Institutions,” which is taught by Julie Newman, director of the Office of Sustainability. This study, Newman said, will discover ways to help the University reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
An environmental engineering major, Srivastava said she is bothered when she notices courtyard lights on in the middle of the day. The idea for this project, she added, came from a previous assignment in which she and Cole photographed and made a video showcasing the inefficiency of campus lighting. After seeing that project, Srivastava said Newman urged the two to collect actual data if they wanted to make a change on campus.
Although Srivastava said there are many instances of energy inefficiencies on campus, Energy Blitz will focus on outdoor courtyard lights in 14 locations. She added that this arrangement is safer than a campus-wide study because students can observe from inside their rooms instead of spending their nights on Science Hill. Cole said they are assuming lights will remain on at night for safety reasons, so student volunteers will only observe from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
She added that she and Srivastava designed the project with the aim of facilitating student input. To start with, she said, the Energy Blitz is happening on a Friday because more people are free to participate. Students can get involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to record a light’s location and whether it is on or off.
“It’s literally as easy as looking outside your window,” Srivastava said.
The two students will analyze the data once it is collected, after which Cole said they will determine what changes should be made. She said they hope to present their findings to the Office of Facilities to implement these changes. Cole added that she and Srivastava hope to see such changes made before they graduate.
“If something’s broken, you can just go repair it, but to change the system is a lot harder,” Srivastava said.
The name Energy Blitz comes from the term BioBlitz, the name for events in which biologists ask a community to record all living species in a certain area for a 24-hour period. Newman suggested the idea to Cole and Srivastava as a way to involve students in energy and sustainability issues. If the project goes well, Srivastava said, they may focus on other areas of campus.
A second Energy Blitz will be held after Thanksgiving break.