Yale’s recent conservation efforts have resulted in a 1 percent decrease in energy consumption so far this academic year, University officials said Tuesday.
The campaign succeeded in reducing electricity consumption by 1 percent compared to the same period last year. The results, slated to be released within a few days, come at the close of a student-run campaign to save energy over Thanksgiving break. Although the figures show progress, students will have to boost conservation efforts significantly in order to meet the University requirements for sustainable energy funding set out this fall, student leaders of the energy campaign said.
“If we’re going to meet that goal, we’re going to have to be a lot more effective in the spring semester,” said Evan Suzuki ’07, the student director of the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership, which organized the Thanksgiving campaign.
Under the greenhouse gas reduction strategy, which was announced this October, Yale will invest in renewable energy certificates worth one-third of its residential power usage as a reward for every 5 percent decrease in consumption. University officials and STEP coordinators said they aim to achieve their first 5 percent decrease by the end of this academic year.
The long-term goal of the University’s sustainability strategy is a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below their 1990 levels by 2020.
Yale Energy Manager Thomas Downing said he is optimistic that the school will continue to improve its energy efficiency. Power consumption was up in September, he said, but in October students used about 6 percent less than during the same month last year.
The Thanksgiving drive, “Yale Unplugged,” encouraged students to disconnect their appliances over the break, which saves more power than merely turning them off. Downing said that although the statistical results could have been better, the campaign’s long term impact on student awareness is more important.
“You can’t measure success by pure numbers,” Downing said. “We’re trying to instill a culture in students and faculty and staff which will have much more long range beneficial effects than one particular initiative for a one week period.”
Whitney Haring-Smith ’07, executive director of the nonprofit group New Haven Action, which is running a clean energy campaign, said the 1 percent improvement during break was an important accomplishment.
“We saw really good evidence that students are making progress over Thanksgiving,” he said. “We care that we have 1 percent because that is probably equal to a couple thousand barrels of oil.”
Steam energy consumption increased over the break compared to last year, but Downing attributed the rise to unusually cold weather that forced buildings to use more heat. A better test will come during winter recess, Downing said, when temperatures are less variable. Facilities officials will tour buildings on Old Campus this week to create a concrete list of energy-saving opportunities for this coming break.
In the meantime, Haring-Smith said over 2,000 students have signed a pledge in which they promise to reduce their energy consumption. He said the results of the Thanksgiving campaign show that Yalies are following through on the pledge.
“We’re seeing changes happen right now that are generating savings,” he said. “I think that is an important indication that this campaign is having an impact.”
But Suzuki said he thinks the primary effect of the pledge drive will be to let the administration know that students are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s very easy for people to sign a pledge, and it’s more difficult for people to change their habits,” he said.
Suzuki said STEP will make changes to the “Yale Unplugged” campaign as winter recess approaches, such as concentrating campaigning efforts in the period immediately before the break. He said activists will also try to reach more students who are otherwise uninterested in environmental concerns, a group he said the Thanksgiving break campaign failed to reach adequately.
STEP is also circulating a survey on Old Campus to gauge how effectively it has promoted its message. If conservation does not improve significantly, the organization may attempt to expand its current activities, which include putting up posters, hosting study breaks and conducting door-to-door visits, STEP Freshman Team Leader Shevaun Lewis ’06 said.
“We may end up changing our strategies a lot,” she said. “We’ve been doing the same kind of things for a while, and it’s hard to think of new ways to reach people.”
An official analysis of energy expenditures will be posted within a few days on Yale’s energy Web site.
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