College Planning & Management

DEC 2012

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Trends in Green SUS TAINABLE INNOVAT IONS ON C AMPUS When the Bill Comes Due Mock energy bills help to reduce usage on campus. BY JEFF CANNING T HEREÕS NOTHING LIKE A PRICEY BILL TO help consumers curb habits. That is why the folks at Messiah College in Grantham, PA, are giving students mock energy bills that show exact usage and the cost of that usage. The Turn It Off Program gives students explicit feedback on how to reduce costs. The students aren't actually required to pay the bill, but Messiah still sees it as an effective way to make them aware of their energy habits and ultimately lead to behavioral change. "It's one of those things that is somewhat invisible, but the students really care to know about if it is delivered to them," says Sustainability Coordinator Craig Dalen. "I actually had a group of four students come up to me and apologize after they got their first bill because they didn't realize how much energy they were using. The bill is just for their benefit that they can reflect on." Use and Costs Are Decreasing The bills seem to be making an impact. From November 2010 to November 2011, total electricity usage has declined 2.5 percent, for about $1,600 in savings. While the monetary value is nice, senior biology and Spanish major Danika Foster sees the value as much more than dollar signs. Turning off your Foster is also the project light probably won't coordinator for Turn it Off. "For me, it's more than single-handedly save just saving money. It's about the planet. But it may social justice, just resource help defer tuition allocation, and cutting costs for the students down on the stereotypes of after you and teach northern hemisphere glutyou how to be a bettony," says Foster. Messiah had an infrater steward of your money once you have structure in place that submetered all of the energy usto pay the bill. age by individual apartments for Mellinger, Smith, and Fry Halls and decided to use that resource in a new way. Since three to five students share the apartments, the bill system has created some interesting dynamics on campus. "There does seem to be one student in each apartment who tends to be the 'mom' or 'dad' who pays the most attention to the bills and encourages their roommates to keep unplugging and turning off their appliances," Foster says. "But I have even heard of reports of students turning the lights off on their roommates while showering or doing homework by the light of a cell phone, so I think it's really catching on." 54 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / DECEMBER 2012 Comparison Data Is Available Each bill not only lists the current usage for the apartment, but also provides students with a comparison for the previous year of the same apartment, so students can see how they measure up to the previous tenants. The bill also serves as a guide, explaining the different terms that appear on a real utility bill. It is Dalen and Foster's hope that having this exposure while in college will get students used to living more conservatively for the rest of their lives. "The pragmatic response is being responsible for your energy usage and repaying your bills. Understanding that running four HD TVs has an impact, and it may be on you," Dalen says. "Turning off your light probably won't single-handedly save the planet," Foster says. "But it may help defer tuition costs for the students after you and teach you how to be a better steward of your money once you have to pay the bill." CPM Jeff Canning is a writer and editor for Dick Jones Communications (www.dickjonescomm.com). Craig Dalen can be reached at Messiah College via email at cdalen@messiah.edu or by phone at 717/796-4785. WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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