GEF's SEED

WWU's GEF Sustainable Energy Efficient Dorm Pilot


Turn Down The Heat

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If there’s anything I’ve learned throughout my time with SEED, it’s that sustainability can be achieved in unexpected ways. Take our refrigerator, for instance. Our Energy Star Electrolux model replaced an old Kennmore fridge from 1999, and the change produces an impressive result.  The old model was estimated to use approximately 654 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year while the new fridge uses an estimated 387 kWh. A difference of over 250 kWh still impresses me.

But who thinks of saving energy with their fridge? It’s just an appliance that’s easy to forget about until your leftovers start turning purple and sprouting mushrooms. But knowing just how big a difference our fridge change has for our energy output inspired me to look for other inconspicuous methods to save energy.

After searching online, I found my challenge. During the week of Thanksgiving when Meriel returned home, I turned off the heater in our living room. I also closed the blinds to retain the heat that was already there. I discovered numerous articles regarding how much energy this technique can save. Closing the blinds (especially at night) helps hold the heat in. During the day, if there’s sun (aka natural heat) open up the blinds to let new heat in. Then you rinse and repeat.

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I hate the cold, and I was really reluctant to give this a try. But I was happily surprised to discover that aside from adding a sweater to my daily wardrobe, I felt no change whatsoever. While this may have been a more difficult challenge to attempt during colder weather, giving it a shot helped me realize that it was doable. It’s so easy to just close the blinds in the evenings, and the benefits quickly overtake the few seconds of effort.

Libby Keller

We love saving energy, time and money! Help your living space by using this checklist as you leave for break this winter!

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Join us every week as we save our world one small challenge at a time!

Have a Happy Holidays Everyone!


How To Be A Worms Best Friend

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This week Eco-Challenge was inspired by food. As the days get colder, and I spend more time indoors, I find myself preparing more meals in my dorm. With the increased amount of home-cooked meals comes more organic food waste. The increase of food scraps prompted Libby and I to get a compost bin. Although, it may be smelly at times and add an extra container to empty at the end of the week, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to composting. If one simply tosses food waste into the trash the organic matter will be taken to a landfill where it is unable to decompose properly, releasing methane gas which is even more detrimental to climate change than CO².

I found our new composting bin to be easy to maintain and not too smelly. It felt good to be contributing to the daily long-term practices that bring about real change. As renowned environmental activist Bill McKibben wrote in his novel Eaarth, “ We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to survive on this Eaarth, but most of it needs to be done close to home. Small, not big; dispersed, not centralized.” I have discovered that true change happen over time with collective effort, so I hope you will consider purchasing an enclosed composting container for your room. It is an inexpensive and easy way to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Plus, the worms will thank you for the favor!

Meriel

Buying a compost bin can be a new and functional way to reduce your waste into the landfill, and on campus we have many compost bins if you are bringing food onto campus. Try making composting an every day activity and soon enough you wont even need to think twice as recycling and composting become a habit in your every day lifestyle!

If you are interested in learning about composting in Bellingham? check this out!

This Eco-Challenge was inspired by the SEED room’s energy saving refrigerator, and made us reflect upon what we can do to have a low carbon diet.

Join us every week in our Eco-Challenges! Even the smallest changes make a difference.


Click On, Click Off

For this week’s Eco Challenge, we decided I would give Meriel’s goal from last week a try so we could see how my cell phone battery stacked up to hers.

First and foremost, I learned tracking your phone usage is hard. Thankfully, I discovered a nifty little function in my phone’s settings that kept track of how long it had been since my phone was last fully charged, and how much of that time was spent actively using the device.

By this calculation, after a day of fairly heavy use, my cell phone battery would reach 0% after about 5 hours and 20 minutes of use. However, of any given day I may only use my phone actively for a couple hours, leaving me with over half my charge remaining at the end of the day. Other times (especially when I’m making a lot of phone calls or tweeting for my job at the paper) I may need to charge my phone when I get back from class to avoid it dying prematurely.

I also determined it would take 2 hours and 15 minutes for my phone to reach a 100% charge if the battery were to run completely dry. I did this by plugging in my phone, timing how long it took for the battery charge to increase by 1%, multiplying that number by 100, then dividing the result by 60 to get the sum in hours.

I was surprised at how little time it actually took to charge my phone. I usually plug my phone in at night before I go to bed, and am usually asleep by the time it finishes, so I suppose I simply began to associate the process with an all-night timeline. In truth, I realized I could get a full charge by plugging my phone into one of our Belkin outlet timers, flipping the switch to the 3 hour setting, and leaving it be. Even when the timer runs out and the outlet turns off, my phone wouldn’t lose much charge since I wouldn’t be actively using it.

It’s such a simple change, but I know I would have never done the calculations to bring it to my attention without this challenge as a motivator.

 

Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you guys next time,

 

            Libby

 

Todays security blanket, our cell phone, rules many of our lives and therefor needs to be charged and functioning on a day to day basis. Charging phones and computers can seem like an annoyance, possibly having to wait for them to be done and then un plugging it to conserve energy can seem even worse. That is why we have decided to focus on this Eco Challenge for two weeks instead of one. Keeping items plugged in is one of the biggest energy wasting habits people develop. and electronic chargers make a big impact.

This is why the SEED room has implemented power strips that can turn on and off with a portable switch that Meriel and Libby have mounted on their wall by their light switch. This, along with their outlet timers have reduced their vampire energy greatly.

Join us in our Eco Challenge movement! Choose to save energy in small ways all day and make a big impact.

 

 


Time Yourself

For this week’s Eco-Challenge, I focused on reducing the amount of time I spend on my computer and phone, while decreasing the amount of energy I use in charging. To start the challenge, I measured the amount of time it took to fully charge my computer and phone from 5% and 10% respectively. It took 2 hours and 5 minutes to charge my computer and 2 hours and 20 minutes to charge my phone. For this Eco-Challenge I used Belkin outlet timers. These timers can be set to 30 minutes, 3 hours, or 6 hours. They are a great way to cut down on TV or internet time since the device shuts off the electricity flow after the allotted amount of time. Through this Eco-Challenge I became more aware of how long I spend on my electronics. I found the best energy saver was turning my phone off at night. Once I did this I could go three days without charging my phone. Although I cut out all recreational computer use this week, I used it more than I normally would since I had a ten paged research paper due.

Overall, I think it is important to ask:

What do I use my electronics for? How can I cut down on my recreational use?

After this challenge, I have now made a few lifestyle changes; I turn my phone off at night, spend less time on Facebook, and continually reassess how and how often I use my electronics.

 Meriel
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SEED loves the Belkin outlet timers, they are one of the more accessible technology for students, since they are only $10 on amazon. We highly suggest acquiring one.

Believe it or not, When your appliances and other devices are plugged into the socket, but not in use, they still consume energy. This is what we call “ghost” or “vampire” energy. Our Belkin outlet times put a stop to this needless energy waste by shutting off the flow of energy. They can even help cut down on the amount of time you may be wasting by watching TV or on your computer by shutting of the device after your selected amount of time.

This technology may be small, but they can make a huge impact!


Savoring The Drops

Last week was my first crack at our SEED Eco-Challenges and I have to say, I was a bit nervous. I chose my challenge based on the results we’d begun to collect from our shower monitor. As someone who compulsively showers every night, I watched as my chart filled up two or three times as fast as Meriel’s. Granted, I only used about 2 or 3 gallons per shower, using that amount each night ads up quicker than I realized. When I surpassed 15 gallons in less than 7 days, I began to feel like I could be trying harder to save water.

So I made the vow to cut my time in the shower to every other day. As I said, this goal had me a little anxious. I hate feeling grimy, and I thought for sure that would be the case all week. But what I very quickly realized was that not only did I feel perfectly clean during those skip days, but I was able to cut my weekly water consumption by almost half.

The showers that I was taking were the same or only slightly longer than the ones I was taking nightly. That means that I was able to go from about 17 gallons to 10 gallons of water used over the course of a week—and I wasn’t bothered by it at all. In fact, having that extra time I would usually spend showering and getting changed, I was able to get more work done during the evenings.

When I look at our shower charts now, I feel proud that the lines of data are much more even. And Meriel has assured me my hair still looks fine.

Catch you guys in the next one!

Libby
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How much water do you use to shower? The SEED students are lucky enough to have an Efergy shower timer that not only tracks their time in the shower, but also calculates how many gallons they use in that amount of time. Even if you don’t have a shower timer, taking shorter showers isn’t as hard as you think! Some ways to take shorter showers include; using a dual shampoo and conditioner, playing a song while you shower that coincides with your desired shower length, or even taking a colder shower.

Try using some of these ideas next week to see what you can do to improve your shower time. We promise it’s worth it!


Study Smart

Hello all!

Last week marked the beginning of Eco challenges! What is an Eco challenge, you ask?  I define an Eco challenge as holding oneself accountable while actively working towards sustainable day-to-day living practices. Each week Libby and I will alternate choosing a specific aspect of our daily routine to focus on improving. The idea is that by the end of the year we will have tested numerous ways to cut ones carbon footprint.

This week, I challenged myself to reduce my use of electricity by utilizing public spaces on campus that already had lighting to study and do homework. Along with being able to explore many different study environments, from Zoe’s dynamic café to the Wilson Library’s silent 5th floor, I was also able track the decrease of energy use in my dorm through our Efergy e2 Electricity Monitor. Witnessing a decrease in energy use was both rewarding and fun!

Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint and discover Western’s study hot spots? If the answer is yes, this Eco challenge is for you!

Think globally, act locally!

Meriel

This past year we have been able to track our energy use through our Efergy e2 Electricity Monitor. This monitor has surprised us time and time again, as we track our data twenty four hours a day. We can see our energy change constantly, from our spike in electricity usage when we use our microwave, to a sudden drop when we implemented our outlet timers.

Here is a recent example of what this monitor can do!

DATADid you spot the sudden drop?

That drop was when we plugged in our outlet timers and power strips. This helped us decrease our wasted energy and really showed us how important it is to keep our items unplugged when they aren’t in use.

If improving your habits is something you would like to do as well, we welcome you to join us in our endeavors every week!

Good luck, and have fun!


Beginning Again

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This year’s residents, Libby and Meriel, welcome you all to SEED this year!

Meriel:

Hi everyone, my name is Meriel and I am the newest addition to the SEED program! I am originally from Olympia, home to a progressive community, lots of rain and of course the state’s capital.

Both my parents, and the greater Olympia community, helped me foster a deep appreciation of nature. This appreciation as led me to be passionate about exploring and preserving the environment.

Now that I am at Western, this passion has ultimately led me to be involved in various sustainability activities on campus, like SEED. During the upcoming year, my roommate Libby and I are looking forward to advocating energy-efficient practices by giving tours of our room, tabling at events, and blogging. We have also decided to add a fun twist to our blog; each week one of us will take on a new Eco challenge and share our experiences. These challenges could be anything from cutting shower times to not eating meat for a week (disclaimer: I am already a vegetarian!)

I am excited to continue to learn ways to bring sustainable practices to our everyday lives. I hope you all are too.

 

Libby:

My name is Libby Keller and I am currently a junior majoring in journalism. It is my second year at Western as well as my second year as a resident of the SEED project. When I moved to Bellingham in 2013, I did so largely blind. I confirmed my acceptance without having ever seen the campus in person and without any more of a perception about its way of life than what I’d garnered online. But from the first time I drove up High Street during Summer Start, I’ve considered Western my home.

Likewise, from the first time I stepped into Buchanan Towers room 514 I have felt at home. During those first few months SEED was still under construction and my roommate, Jacquelyn Stenman, and I could only speculate as to what the changes would bring. Living among tools like outlet timers and shower charts, as well as having all our energy use captured and recorded, was a bit intimidating to the both of us.

Growing up in Spokane, I’d never experienced sustainability beyond basic recycling—and even that was only done grudgingly and with no idea as to why it was important. So the purpose of the SEED technologies was about as foreign as could be at that point. But I had agreed to take part in the project for the opportunity to learn and experience new things, while also putting myself outside of my comfort zone, and I was determined to do so.

When the technologies arrived after Christmas break, it was clear that SEED would most definitely be just such an opportunity. We spent winter quarter getting acquainted with our new room additions and slowly building more sustainable habits to match them. It was difficult at times—for the life of me, I didn’t seem capable of remembering to turn off my outlet strip when I left for class. But once we got through the initial struggle of keeping up with our changes, they easily became part of our everyday lives.

Soon we were seeing ourselves unconsciously making even more changes. Being aware of how long our showers were, evolved into actively trying to shorten them. Tracking electricity use led to us purchasing an analogue clock so we wouldn’t have to leave our microwave plugged in all the time.

Then in the spring, we began sharing these experiences on the blog. Every week we highlighted one piece of technology and how we had seen it affect our lives. These weekly reflections not only allowed us to help educate others about sustainable living, it allowed us the opportunity to really think about what it’s like to live in a college dorm while remaining conscious of our environmental footprint.

Last year was a tremendous learning experience, and my decision to return to BT 514 was greatly influenced by the chance to learn even more. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I look forward to sharing it with all of you.

It’s great to be back!

 

SEED will be tabling at the Sustainability Expo on November 13th. Come check us out!

SEED

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