Thursday September 29, 2011

Red and Blue Make Green

The University netted $20,000 in savings after sharing monthly energy usage with students with "report cards" on their gas and electric use.

Reports cards are normally reserved for the end of semester. But, the University of Dayton is giving some students report cards every month, demonstrating how they're using energy in University-owned housing. 

The verdict: 85 percent of the 469 monitored student residences received an average or better score, and by the end of the year, the University estimated a savings of $20,000 on gas and electric. In addition to the savings, the University empowered the students. A student survey at the end of the 2010-11 school year found nearly half said the report cards made them more aware of their energy usage and changed the way they used energy. 

"The results exceeded my expectations," said Kurt Hoffmann, University of Dayton environmental sustainability manager. "Everyone involved is pleased how it turned out." 

The University owns most of the houses in two neighborhoods bordering campus, creating a distinctive residential environment that pose energy challenges but also afford opportunities. The 469 residences — mostly former single family homes, doubles and some apartments — allowed students to see their usage on a small scale and enabled them to take measures to save energy. 

Each address received a grade of A through F grade for energy usage each month, as compared to a model created by University of Dayton engineering students. A "C" meant the residence's gas and electric usage was what the University expected for that month. University of Dayton engineering students compiled the models based on the last six years of energy data for each of the University-owned houses, taking into account anomalies in temperatures. 

Energy usage isn't the only place where University of Dayton students are reducing their carbon footprints. 

For the 2010-11 academic year, the University participated in a city of Dayton recycling program that provides each residence in the student neighborhood with large recycling bins. The University also started a composting program that has diverted nearly 220 tons of waste from landfills.

The University's collective efforts have earned a bronze rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS). 

"We joined STARS to make the sustainability program more transparent and measure the campus sustainability program against other institutions," Hoffmann said. "We also joined to use it as a planning tool to identify where our gaps are, and what we could prioritize in future initiatives to make the largest impact." 

STARS gave positive marks to the University for its sustainability policies in human resources, such as employee wellness programs and options for socially responsible investing in retirement; and commended its public engagement in working with city government and other universities on sustainability efforts; and student involvement in community service around sustainability. 

More information about the University of Dayton's sustainability efforts can be found on the Learn. Lead. ConServe. website.

For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at 937-229-3391.