With the recent budget cuts at SRU, many seem to wonder what types of funding will be cut first. While there are many economic pay offs attempting to be made, one of the most beneficial, the university estimates, will be lowering their energy costs. SRU is calling this movement ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays.’
In an effort to reduce the university’s overall cost in heating the campus during the frigid, winter months, SRU is encouraging students and faculty to bundle up on Fridays.
A self-proclaimed “sustainaic” and environmental science professor at SRU, Dr. Patrick Burkhart said he always has a few choice words for students concerning their green initiatives. Burkhart lectures students in his classes about conserving the environment, but he agrees students and faculty members alike can benefit from reducing their carbon footprint with a few simple steps. ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’ is a good start, Burkhart said
“I’d rather people at the university turn off the lights and heat instead of firing people,” Burkhart said.
While Burkhart explained SRU has cut the cost of energy consumption by 45 percent last year, he still believes there is more the university can do. Burkhart also explained the implications that come with paying for utilities, such as heating bills, and advice for cutting those bills in half.
“Just lower the thermostat and put on a sweater,” Burkhart said. “It’s the right thing to do. Don’t be like my daughters running around in gym shorts in the middle of winter asking me to turn the heat on.”
Burkhart explained that the release of energy has a great effect on the environment. In addition to turning down the thermostat to reduce heating costs, Burkhart suggested another household fix.
“Half of houses don’t take advantage of closing storm windows,” he said. Burkhart explained that this is where most heat energy can be released into the environment. He suggested checking storm windows routinely to make sure they are closed so that excess energy cannot leak out.
“Small steps. Big pay-offs.” is the SRU Office of Sustainability’s motto. In addition to lower heating costs, Burkhart’s favorite small step to conserve energy is turning off the lights.
“Excess lighting at night diminishes our ability to see the stars,” he said. “I love natural light. People don’t realize these initiatives are easy to achieve if we behave intelligently. We want to deliver a beautiful future for our kids.”
‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’ is the brainchild of environmental science professor and president of the Energy Conservation Committee (ECC) at SRU, Dr. Julie Snow.
“We are not setting the thermostat below comfort levels,” Snow said. “But people are calling and complaining about it being cold on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Snow shook off feelings of distress knowing the economic pay-off her idea brings to the university.
“We’re trying to help people,” she said. “We can’t meet energy needs we have today. But I am willing to bet that people who have called in and complained are the ones who aren’t keeping their thermostats at 60 or 70 degrees, they’re keeping it higher.”
Snow said the Energy Conservation Committee’s goal is simply to educate students and faculty about the green efforts they can take part in at SRU through simple steps like ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’. She explained her logic in the movement.
“Residence halls have called to complain and we are not lowering the heat there, only academic buildings are affected,” she said. “We picked Fridays because it was a fairly less utilized day on campus.”
Another member of the Energy Conservation Committee at SRU and Special assistant to the president for Sustainability Planning and Operations, Paul Scanlon explained that he and the Energy Conservation Committee have worked tirelessly to bring ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’ into fruition.
“We’ve had the idea now for two years,” Scanlon said. “We attempted to go to President Smith with the idea about a year ago but he did not approve it. President Norton was all for the idea.”
Scanlon expressed enthusiasm for ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’ with social media ideas involving students.
“We’re encouraging students to like SRU Sustainability’s Facebook page and take a selfie in their fleece,” he said. “We’ll be giving prizes away to students for their pictures in support of ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’.” Scanlon also emphasized the importance of signing the Energy Pledge on SRU’s website.
Scanlon said he is familiar with SRU students’ resource consumption as he recalled his experience with interviewing four Rock Apartment residents about their energy usage.
“They all told me they took 15-30 minute showers,” Scanlon said. “I did the math and found out if 8,000 students took off 5 minutes from their daily shower, they would conserve 30 million gallons of water a year.”
Scanlon believes there is more knowledge about climate change today, but fossil fuels are still being extracted. Energy conservation solves half the problem, he said. In fact, there are many energy-sucking items he believes students and faculty can live without.
“Don’t use a space heater,” Scanlon said. “It’s against SRU’s Energy Conservation policy. It can be a safety issue. They typically use way more energy than our central plant heating system does and it uses electricity – the least efficient, most expensive, and most polluting form of energy on campus.”
‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’ can save the university up to 30 to 40 percent on energy costs, Scanlon also said.
“It doesn’t cost much and it has a great payback,” he said.
Director of Facilities and Planning at SRU and member of the Energy Conservation Committee, Scott Albert works with the facts and figures in maintaining SRU’s utilities every day.
“We are expecting an estimated 8,000-10,000 dollar energy savings with ‘Flaunt Your Fleece Fridays’,” Albert said. He explained there has been a 45% decrease in the amount of energy consumed on a square foot basis in the last seven years at SRU due to new technologies and building renovations.
Albert explained that 2.8 million dollars goes into utilities at SRU each year. 1.68 million dollars is attributed to annual heating and electric.
“If this doesn’t work, we can always adapt and go back,” Albert said. “But I think every little bit that we are doing helps.”