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Education Key Component in Sustainability Initiative

Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11


Wilfred Ahrens

Kermit the Frog was right: It’s not easy being green. But it’s about to get a whole lot easier.

A new aspect of the College’s 20-month-long enterprise, known as the Energy Conservation Project (ECP), to improve energy-efficiency — which involved the extensive replacement of lighting, pipes, showerheads and other devices — is in its developmental phase.

“Now that [the ECP] is becoming completed, the campus isn’t really aware, I feel, of the environmental changes that have happened,” Anna Peery ’14, administration liaison of the Environmental Campus Organization (ECO), said. Peery also serves on the Behavior Modification Committee, which is the Office of Sustainability’s advertising and planning arm for the new phase of the project.

“The next step in this project is an educational piece that will be designed specifically for Kenyon to help get more awareness of how we use our energy,” Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said.

The College plans to install two electronic kiosks that will inform the Kenyon community of its energy consumption. Students and staff will be able to see the real-time energy usage of almost every building on campus on a monitor. This “dashboard” may include a virtual room, where students can see, for example, a space heater’s effect on the environment, information about the College’s carbon footprint, data on how much money and energy the College spent last year compared to this year and energy goals the College hopes to meet.

“Basically anything can be stored in these kiosks,” Peery said, but she added that specific interactive devices are still in discussion. One kiosk will move around the campus while the other will remain in an area where many students gather, such as Peirce Hall.

In addition, the College plans to acquire up to 50 iPads and other tablets with the assistance of Ameresco Inc., the company that is spearheading the ECP, which the College willuse to try to raise awareness of energy usage. Although the specific plans for distribution are still in the works, the College hopes these tablets will enable students to more closely monitor the sustainability efforts. The College is also exploring converting the information on the kiosks and iPads into a smartphone application that all students could access. The idea, according to Sustainability Director Ed Neal, is to provide “tools for people to make good decisions.”

“Just knowing where you’re at is a very useful tool,” he said.

Kohlman agreed, and said that this element of the project is vital to foster awareness of how the community uses energy. “It will allow us to get some real direct feedback on usage and what’s going on,” he said. Kohlman expects the kiosks to be up and running by, appropriately, Earth Day.

Kohlman said the educational component could reduce the College’s energy usage by as much as seven percent. He said this part of the ECP is at the heart of the project and would influence the choices students and staff alike make about their energy usage. “If you don’t know, you’re not going to change your behavior,” Kohlman said. “If you know more about what’s going on … potentially we’ll see a fairly substantial reduction just from that.”

More specifically, the College expects to see a 28 to 30 percent reduction in energy usage.

Neal said he remains confident that the College will achieve this reduction. “I can say that we have seen a 22 percent reduction at this point,” he said. “And we don’t have everything complete, so I’m relatively sure we’re going to hit our mark.”

The educational component is the final phase of the ECP. Throughout the spring and summer, maintenance workers went into the College’s 125 academic, residential and administrative buildings to replace, renovate and retrofit. The improvements they implemented include occupancy sensors that regulate temperature, more efficient lighting and EPA-approved water fixtures, including low-flow shower nozzles, sinks and toilets. “This project enabled us to do a whole group of things that normally would have taken us a lot longer to do,” Kohlman said.

But the project isn’t just about acruing good karma. “It’s not just being eco-friendly — this is saving [the] College a lot of money,” said Peery.

The $7.5 million project is beginning to pay dividends. With expected savings of $600,000 a year, the College already has seen its lighting costs slashed by 18 percent, according to Neal. While Ameresco guarantees this payback (and will make up the difference if it is not met), the $600,000 savings is a conservative estimate. “Our expectation is that we’ll do better than that,” Kohlman said.

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