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New Team Has Campus Thinking Green

Million Monitor Pledge Drive

With the recently formed Green Team spurring sustainability efforts all over campus, Smith is on track this year to offset thousands of dollars in increased energy costs and, equally as important, team members say, substantially reduce the emissions of pollution and environmentally damaging gases.

Already, following the Green Team’s initiative at August’s Central Check-In to sell low-wattage light bulbs to the community, the college will save an estimated $5,200 and 64,000 kilowatts (kWh, the standard unit of measure for electrical energy use) this academic year. According to calculations by Todd Holland, energy manager for Five Colleges, Inc., and a Green Team founding member, that savings is equal to the amount of energy it takes to light 51 average homes for a year.

The Green Team is a coalition of students, faculty and staff formed this past summer to implement ideas and strategies for realizing sustainability at Smith. An offshoot of the college’s Committee on Sustainability, the Green Team takes on the work of reducing energy use campuswide, following through on sustainability initiatives and exploring alternative forms of energy production.

“What we’re computing as 'savings' is really cost avoidance,” explains Holland. “Savings will partially offset rapidly rising energy prices, which in some cases have doubled since last year.”

“This energy savings will benefit the environment by reducing the emissions from power plants that supply our electricity,” adds Gary Hartwell, a project manager in the Physical Plant and a Green Team founding member. As a result of that reduction in energy use, the college will trim its carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) emission by 22 tons. “That’s equivalent to removing five cars from the road or planting 1,400 trees,” Hartwell recites.

The Green Team is also launching the Big Turn Off, a campaign to get employees in the habit of powering down lights and electrical appliances when not in use. In particular, the campaign is targeting unneeded hallway lights, which run multiple electrical circuits, lights in unused rooms, such as bathrooms and office kitchens, copy machines and coffee pots.

“Turning an idle appliance of unneeded light off generates 100 percent savings,” states a flyer for the campaign. “There is zero energy use, and therefore zero emissions, when you’ve turned it off. Please turn them on when you need them, and turn them off when you leave.”

In addition to coordinating the sale of light bulbs in August, and its ongoing effort to replace many incandescent bulbs on campus with low-wattage bulbs, Green Team personnel are pursuing a project to cut energy used for gymnasium lighting, overseeing the improvement of insulation on steam pipes, and collaborating on a new residence for Ada Comstock Scholars that will feature triple-paned windows and thicker walls filled with insulation.

The Green Team is also laying the groundwork for a transition to a “co-generation” power plant that will generate electricity and steam for heat at the same time. The plant is scheduled to be in use by fall 2007.

The Green Team is working with other sustainability groups on campus, such as Gaia: Smith Students for the Environment, Clean Energy for Smith (CES), and the Smith Environmental Coalition. Members of those groups are on the Green Team.

In May, the Green Team joined with Information Technology Services in the “Sleep is Good” campaign, which aims to enable 1,200 computer monitors to automatically shut down when the machine is not in use. The project works by activating a “sleep mode” feature on all Smith computers that will turn off the monitor (put it to sleep) after several minutes of idle time, without closing applications or interrupting the computer’s performance.

The promotion also encourages users to turn their computers off at night. Research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and the Environmental Protection Agency shows that only 36 percent of users turn computers off after work, and that the average computer is idle for 58 percent of the work day. A common myth states that it's best to leave a computer running all the times, but modern computers are actually better off when shut down during non-use.

The Sleep is Good endeavor is in support of the Million Monitor Pledge Drive, a nationwide campaign projected to save $30 million this year, and enough energy to power 350,000 homes for a month. The Million Monitor Drive campaign at Smith, headed by Lindsey French ’08, head of CES. The Smith Sleep is Good campaign, in conjunction with the Million Monitor Drive, is projected to save $39,000 and 458,000 kWh per year.

With Smith College using energy at a clip of about 25,000,000 kWh per year (the equivalent of powering 2,800 American homes), at a rate of approximately $.08 per kWh (expected to nearly double in 2007), the formation of the Green Team and its collaboration with other sustainability groups on campus is none too soon.

The Green Team is: Ann Finley, area manager in dining services; Carole Fuller, director of strategic marketing; Gary Hartwell; Todd Holland;Linda LaFlam, supervisor of residential operations; Bob Dombkowski, supervisor of grounds; Katherine Thompson ’07, of Gaia; Lindsey French ’08; Mai Kobayashi ’06, of Smith Environmental Coalition; Crisi Clementi ’06, Earth Rep; Joanne McMullin Benkley, program coordinator for the Environmental Science and Policy Program; and L. David Smith, director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program.

Click here to view the Green Team Web site.

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