Connecticut College Light Bulb Exchange Program

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


The Problem:
Electric usage at the College has nearly doubled since the 1990-1991 academic year. This growth trend can be expected to continue as long as the student population and their demand for electronic devices continue to increase.

The electricity used by the College carries with it both economic and environmental consequences. The economic price is easy to calculate - about .08 per kWh. At our current level of usage (approximately 15.5 million kWh), that is about $1.2 million per year.

The environmental cost of our electric use is harder to determine, but it equally as important. Currently the New England power grid relies heavily on dirty and dangerous sources of electricity such as coal, oil, and nuclear power. These sources of electricity have a negative impact on the health of all members of the campus community and to the natural environmental around us.

Therefore, by reducing our electric usage we will reduce the amount of damage that we are doing to the world around us, and ultimately to ourselves. We can also save significant amounts of money in the process, which can then be re-allocated for other purposes.

The Solution:
Electricity consumption is a large and complex problem. The good news is that this means that there are many different opportunities for creative solutions.

There are two primary strategies that we can pursue to reduce electric use. The first is to educate the members of the campus community about the impacts of electric use in an effort to change their attitudes and behaviors. This is often the more difficult and time consuming option, especially in an institution with a highly transient population such as Connecticut College. However, if a campus culture of conservation can be established and maintained, this is ultimately the most effective strategy because it leads to other innovative solutions to any given problem.

The second strategy is to increase the efficiency of the electric systems on campus. This can be done in many ways. Some examples include upgrading old equipment to more efficient models (purchasing Energy Star office products), using technology to turn off devices when they are not needed (installing motion sensors on the lights), improving access to usage controls (putting thermostats in the rooms so that students won’t open their windows and let heat escape), or simply by eliminating excessive electric devices (removing the planter lights in front of Olin, which serve no practical purpose).

The Light Bulb Exchange Program:
The light bulb exchange program is an attempt to educate the campus community about electric use while at the same time replacing an old device with a newer, more efficient one. This program also has several other benefits. It is economically self sustaining on two levels. First, it produces energy savings that pay for the program’s initial investment in 1-2 years. Secondly, it takes an item that would normally be considered a waste product and transforms it into a valuable commodity whose revenue stream can be used to purchase more CFLs and to continue the program. This program also has the added benefit of diverting a potentially hazardous item from the waste stream (incandescent bulbs contain lead) and of providing students with a fun and creative activity that they can participate in.

The program is a simple three phase cycle. Once the program is started, all three phases can be performed simultaneously. Here is how it works:

Step 1: Use money to purchase CFLs
Step 2: Trade CFL’s for incandescent bulbs
Step 3: Decorate the incandescent bulbs and sell them for money
Step 4: Return to Step 1 and repeat the cycle

Source File also contains information on the program's history plus computations of savings.