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FALL 2011
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Students Help CALS Staff Go Green

By Alison O’Neil ’12

CALS Green

In the year since the CALS Green pilot project launched, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ behavior-based energy conservation and sustainability initiative has led to commitments from faculty, staff, and students to cut more than 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, saving almost $180,000 in annual energy costs. With such success, the college is now preparing to share its energy conservation techniques—which include a building contest and interactive, individually customizable “take action” web tool—with the rest of the university.

Did you know you could save $3,000 a year and reduce CO2 emissions by 34,000 pounds simply by closing an unused fume hood? Well, neither did many of the researchers I met this summer during an enlightening internship with CALS Green.

As a member of the Tompkins County Conservation Corps, I joined eight other interns to inventory energy use and educate researchers in 90 labs in the six buildings included in the CALS Green energy conservation competition.

We went around in groups of two, knocking on doors, hoping to catch researchers in action. Many said they had never thought about how many fume hoods or freezers they used; we often had to follow them around the lab while they counted out loud. They often didn’t know the age of their lab equipment or how often it was used by other colleagues. But it was striking to observe the amount and condition of refrigerators and freezers in each lab; some had five or more, and many appliances were more than 10 or 15 years old and incredibly inefficient.

Many told us they feel there is an inherent barrier to energy conservation in labs because energy use is so crucial to all of their research. But they were also excited by the CALS Green project and willing to help in any way possible.

It was highly rewarding to talk with the people who were conscious of their energy use as well as those who were appreciative of our efforts and the information we had to share.