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University conserves energy during breaks

By Molly Leasure
On December 8, 2011

When Miami University students go home for the holidays, the university takes a vacation as well. According to Yvette Kline, director of sustainability and energy conservation, holidays are time to conserve energy at the university.

According to Kline, it is tough to put an exact dollar figure on the amount of money saved through these energy conservation actions.

"A general rule of thumb is that 1 percent is saved for every one degree of setback on the thermostat. Using this, we estimate savings may reach the 15 to 20 percent range during our long breaks," Kline said.

Many spaces have sensors that adjust lighting levels and temperatures when a room is unoccupied so during breaks, they automatically shut down.

Miami sends out messages to the university community asking for faculty and staff cooperation during these periods. Checklists are given to members of dorms before they dismiss to make sure energy conservation is taking place.

According to David Creamer, vice president of finance and business services, the administration asks that all electrical devices such as computers, copiers and printers be shut off during this time.

"We can't ever totally shut down, but we do try to minimize operations," Creamer said.

Some alterations like temperature control and closings are mandated during these breaks, others like unplugging electrical outlets are voluntary. The building temperatures are controlled through the central system, making it manageable to turn up or down depending on the season. But students and faculty also hold a great deal of power in reducing energy and cost while they are on break.

"This is important in assisting the university to meet the sustainability goals that President Hodge set last spring and it also helps us to reduce unnecessary costs. Both are important in today's economically and environmentally challenging times," Creamer said.

First-year Abby Purdum says she agrees with the conservation process.

"It's important that all students follow the suggested guidelines about conserving energy because each little amount of energy a student saves adds up to a lot," Purdum said. "It doesn't take more than a minute to unplug everything."

According to Kline, "conservation of energy is a continuous process." This year, Rob Abowitz started the EcoRep program, where environmentally-conscious student volunteers promote conservation behaviors in their respective residence halls.

David Prytherch, associate professor of geography and sustainability coordinator is also working to enhance the Building Points of Contact program to reinforce conservation-related efforts in the academic and office buildings. According to Kline, as these networks grow, so too will the environmental, economic and health benefits to the community.

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