This semester, polar bears are coming to Stephen F. Austin State University, and they have a purpose in mind for the students living on campus. These polar bears are working to do something great for the university community and for the planet as a whole: they want to help students cut down on energy use in the residence halls and help save thousands of dollars every year.
According to information provided by the university Physical Plant, in 2009, the college spent more than $9 million on energy costs alone. That total works out to an average monthly bill of about $750,000. What a lot of students don’t realize, is that all of that money comes out of their tuition payments. As the cost of energy and fossil fuels rises, tuition payments increase accordingly. This semester, however, a new campaign is looking to make real changes in the area of campus energy use. At the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester, leadership and honors society Omicron Delta Kappa founded a program called “Polar Bears on Parade” to help educate students and parents about energy use and its costs.
Polar Bears on Parade seeks to provide an outlet through which students can have an effect on just how much of their tuition money is spent on electricity. The program focuses on raising awareness about the local and global consequences of high energy consumption, and promotes simple and easy ways to reduce energy use in the daily lives of students in the residence halls. Polar Bears on Parade has compiled a list of 10 easy and free ways for students to cut down on their energy usage, and they work to get that list out to the student body in as many ways as possible.
One of the main ways that Polar Bears on Parade promotes energy-use awareness is by hosting unique and fun events. They have already been busy this semester working to involve students in helping to reduce energy use and costs. In September, they hosted a movie showing of the environmentally-themed Warner Brother’s film Happy Feet. The night opened with an introduction of the program, followed by guest speaker Dr. Ken Farrish from the Environmental Science department, who spoke on different ways to reduce energy use in the home. In October, the program put on a “Glow-in-the-Dark” dinner in one of the campus dining halls, where the lighting in the cafeteria was reduced and the tables were lit instead by glow sticks. The dinner did a great job of catching students attention and spreading the word about the cost of energy use on campus, and the program passed out copies of the top 10 list. Coming up in the month of November, Polar Bears on Parade is hosting an “Open Mic-Less Night” in conjunction with the campus Starbucks’ annual release of their seasonal polar bear sugar cookies, where the campaign will continue to get students involved in the important issue of saving energy. Students will be invited to perform their talents energy-free with acoustic music, poetry readings, and more, and attendees will be entered to win free cookies.
The program chose the polar bear as the face of its campaign to provide students with a real-world connection to their energy consumption that goes beyond just monetary expenditures, and to provide a personable image of our connection to our home planet. The program hopes ultimately to demonstrate to students that sustainability is a concept that can be applied in all areas of life, not just in the residence halls. When students move off campus and begin to someday pay their own utility bills, the knowledge and consciousness provided by the campaign and its list of 10 things will help them to reduce costs in their everyday lives as well.
The Polar Bears on Parade program has been getting some serious attention for its revolutionary ideas and unique approach. The publication Adventures in Climate Change recently published a story about the campaign, and the Alumni Magazine, Sawdust, will be releasing a feature on the program this fall as well. Polar Bears on Parade is truly a ground-breaking program – the only of its kind in a university in the South – as it aims to approach sustainability and reduce costs via the involvement and efforts of the student body, rather than the administration or government. It is the only program that calls to attention the effects that students themselves can have on university practices and expenditures, and it is already making a difference in the way that many students approach their daily habits. The campaign is a very visual and interactive way for students to get involved in the real-world issues of conservation, and to prepare them for a career world that is now actively seeking applicants with a consciousness and familiarity with using sustainable practices to cut costs. If successful, it will save the university lots of money on energy payments, and can give the beloved polar bear a chance for the future.
More information on SFA’s Polar Bears on Parade energy-saving campaign can be found on their Facebook page: Polar Bears on Parade – The Campaign to Cut Energy Use in SFA Res Halls.The List of 10 Easy and Free Ways to Cut Energy Use:
1. Unplug your phone charger and other appliances when not in use. Did you know: 95% of the electricity that your phone charger draws from the wall when you leave it plugged in is never actually used? As long as the your appliances and chargers stay in a socket, they are drawing electricity, even when those appliances are off
2. Love the sunlight! Open curtains and use natural light to save electricity, and turn off lights when you leave a room. Did you know: Over the course of its lifetime, the energy used by a single incandescent bulb will cost up to 10x more to run than a CFL bulb.
3. Only wash clothes and dishes when you have a full load to run. Did you know: If 1 million people washed their clothes in cold water instead of hot, it would eliminate 250,000 tons of CO2 annually (and keep colors brighter!).
4. Take the stairs – not the elevators, which use electricity to run. Also a good source of exercise! Avoid the “Freshman 15”.
5. Use an LCD or CRT television set, rather than Plasma TVs. Plasmas use up to 4x more energyDid you know: Televisions account for up to 4% of the total energy used in the USA.
6. Use the microwave, not the oven, to heat food. Quicker heating is less energy Did you know: Avoiding using appliances like ovens, dishwashers, and dryers during peak demand times (from5am-9am and 4pm-7pm) saves on energy costs.
7. Put on a sweater when you feel cold. Save on energy used for heating. Did you know: For every 2º you turn down your heating in winter, you can save up to 4% on energy costs.
8. Shave one minute off your hot shower. Just 60 seconds saves a lot of heating energy when thousands of students are working together. Did you know: Heating water accounts for about 25% of a building’s energy use.
9. Store perishables in the back of your fridge. Items stored in the door take more energy to coolDid you know: If 1 million people upgraded to an Energy Star fridge, we’d eliminate 556,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
10. Spread the word! Tell a friend how to save energy. Did you know: Spreading knowledge is the best way to save on energy costs on campus.