December Green Tip: Turn off before you take off

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Before you take off for holiday break, remember that a few simple energy saving actions can make a big difference in helping Harvard University meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016.  In this month’s Green Tip, the Office for Sustainability (OFS) challenges us all to take part in the “Turn Off and Take Off Challenge.”  The tip includes a link which allows you to add a holiday break shutdown list to your Outlook calendar as a reminder to help save energy before you leave for the holiday.

According to the EPA, the energy used by a building to support just one office worker for a day causes over two more times greenhouse gas emissions than if that person was driving to and from work (we know that most of the Harvard community already makes the green choice to take public transit, walk, or bike to work so remember this is just for comparison).

As part of the Turn Off and Take Off Challenge, OFS encourages staff and students to take the following actions before they leave on break:

  • Turn down the heat – a 5 degree setback can save you 5% on your energy bill.
  • Pull the plug – in the kitchen, office, and dorm room. “Phantom Loads” add up fast and can account for 8% of energy use or $100/year!

o    Computer/monitor/printer/fax and copy machine

o    Coffee makers, tea kettles, microwaves and appliances

o    Unplug the power strips

  • Turn off what you can’t unplug.
  • Close/shut all:

o    Windows

o    Storm windows, where applicable – storm windows can prevent 25-50% of heat loss through windows.

o    Blinds

  • Last one out the door shuts off the main lights.
  • Check-in with the facilities team to learn your building and School specific shutdown procedures.
  • Let your facilities team know if you see any leaky faucets/toilets or if you have any trouble with windows, thermostats, or lights during your shutdown.

At the Harvard Law School, the Facilities and Sustainability teams found the savings from energy saving actions taken by students and staff to be substantial. Behavior related programming such as holiday shutdowns, temperature policy adherence and room scheduling led to a savings of 781 Million BTU’s in December ’10 compared to December ’09. That works out to just over $39,000 in energy bills and 43.4 Metric Tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.