GEF's SEED

WWU's GEF Sustainable Energy Efficient Dorm Pilot


Sustainable Transportation

This weeks Eco-Challenge was inspired by the Go For the Green competition. Residences can receive points for their hall by attending Eco Rep events and challenging themselves to reduce their water, waste, electricity, and natural gas.

Transport donuts                                      Transp Peopple

This week, I hosted an Eco Rep event about sustainable transportation. Western students are fortunate to have many alternative transportation choices including: train, bolt bus, city bus, late night shuttles, well-established bike lanes, and Zipcar. Over 3,000 Western students take their cars to campus, a car may seem like a necessity, and in some cases it is, but given the variety of options to walk, bike, and ride, a car can be used sparingly. In addition to hosting an event, I earned points for my hall by submitting pictures to the Office of Sustainability (for their Eco Challenges Campaign) of ways I reduce waste. The first step is awareness, since it is easy to reuse containers, compost, and unplug devices. Gradually, with awareness, one will form new habits that uphold the three pillars of sustainability: health, economy, and the environment.

Help spread the word, choose Sustainable Transportation!

– Meriel

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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.

 

 


Beginning Again

BLog 1 photo (2)

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


Unplug Before You Unwind

ImageWhen you head out for spring break, chances are you don’t take everything with you—because, like it or not, spring quarter is just around the corner. But you may be leaving behind more than you realize.

Standby power—or vampire energy, if you prefer something a little closer to Twilight—is the energy taken in by electric devices even when their primary functions are not actively running. And while standby power is a phenomenon that easily attributed to small items like computers, lamps, and cell phone chargers; it is often forgotten that this phantom energy also lurks within devices we don’t regularly turn off.

Many of these are kitchen appliances. Think about it: your microwave, coffee maker, refrigerator, and any other gadgets you have are all electronic. And while their regular use usually dictates continuous power flow, extended stretches of disuse do not. So it would seem a logical solution to unplug the lot.

It may seem inconvenient, but taking the time to clean out and unplug your fridge is well worth the effort. And let’s be honest; most college fridges are miniature, and those that aren’t, are probably divided between roommates. So if you just make a conscious effort during finals week to eat the food you’ve got, nothing will go to waste and you can give your fridge a spring break of its own.

Steps to Achieve Fridge Independence:

  1. Remove all food: eat it, take it, share it, compost it.
  2. Unplug fridge and promptly stuff fluffy towels in areas in which moisture will accumulate: let defrost overnight.
  3. Wipe down any remaining moisture on or around fridge.
  4. Voila! Just plug back in when you return.

words not seen: you’ve just discovered a SEED Easter egg! Congratulations.  Formatting is.

What SEED has taught us this quarter—primarily through the use of the Efergy Monitor, is that even one plug makes a difference. We’ve seen firsthand that a small fraction of energy is always being consumed by devices on standby. And when you consider their cumulative presence on the scale of a university campus, these small fractions quickly add up to a very large whole.

But that doesn’t have to happen. If we all take the initiative to unplug our devices before we unplug ourselves for vacation, together we can move toward ensuring bright, sustainable spring breaks for generations to come.

Wishing you all the best in health and happiness on your breaks,

See you in spring quarter,

Libby & Jacquelyn