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


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,




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.



Don’t Miss a Drop

We’ve seen changes in illumination, refrigeration, personal expectation, and a list of other non-“ation”s. But the spirit of SEED extends beyond those elements. And while we may not have seen the beginnings of SEED in its infancy last Spring, we think the spirit of SEED extends into the future, and promises a continuation of the love and innovation that first created the project.

In this instance, we think once again of our water—particularly, the installation of low-flow faucets that occurred before we moved in. Without having seen the “before”, it’s a little harder to grasp the impact of the “after”.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned in regards to water, it’s that it goes fast. For every 100 seconds our shower is running, a gallon of water is used.  This access to an instantaneous clean water supply while convenient can easily go unappreciated.  The work required for using this precious resource is minimal, but for some the task is far more laborious.

According to, a nonprofit working to provide access to safe water for developing nations, 780 million people do not have access to clean water.  Personally it’s difficult for us to comprehend the consequence of this- we’ve not been exposed to the daily struggle that an astounding 11 percent of the world’s population, or one in ten people experiences.

What can we do here in Bellingham to appreciate and protect this resource then?  We think using the technology we have- water saving devices such as dual flush toilets and implementing low flow showerheads and faucets is an important step, but not the most crucial.  It’s the consciousness of recognizing this privilege we’re so fortunate to have and working to protect it for ourselves and promoting it for those that don’t.  We’ll simply ask you to consider how much water you would use if you had to carry and purify every drop you used.  How would you use it differently?


In the visually-driven society we live in, it’s easy to forget that change is not only occurring in obvious places. Change doesn’t need spectators. What change needs are dreamers and innovators—dreamers who aren’t afraid to act, and innovators who make dreams reality. All of us can be the change. We’re already on our way. Are you?

Go With the Flow


Do you know how long your last shower was? Do you know how much water you used? Unfortunately, answering ‘no’ to these questions is perfectly normal. We guestimate how long we spend soaking, maybe glance at a clock or our phone on the way out. But chances are, any real concern falls by the wayside as soon as you open the door and the shock of cold air drives all other thoughts from your mind.

It’s an easy thing to let slip (especially when you don’t control your own thermostat and the heater is turned off). But since SEED introduced us to the Effergy Showertime Monitor, we’ve seen that it can be just as easy to integrate awareness into our routines.

The device is essentially a timer that can be calibrated to track the water expenditure of any shower. Once a measurement of water flow is taken using the biodegradable bag the unit provides, the data is entered into the device. We found our shower to flow at a rate of .10 gallons every 10 seconds—this equates to about 1 gallon of water for every one minute and forty seconds. From there, you decide whether to have the monitor alarm after a predetermined time, or once you reach a predetermined water limit. We set ours to a time limit of 15 minutes, but aim for 5 minute showers.

Aside from some minor fumbles with the initial calibration (which was surprisingly complex for a little gadget with only 3 buttons), we were able to install the monitor with ease. A suction cup on the back of the device keeps it securely fastened to the tile of our shower stall.

From here, SEED delivered us each a laminated spreadsheet and some dry erase markers to record the length and water usage of each of our showers. So now, the process of turning on the timer when we get in the shower, and then recording the results when we get out, has become so commonplace that we feel odd if ever we forget to do it.

But having the monitor has evoked more than just a bit of muscle memory—it’s given us a reason to be proactive in our efforts for water conservation. Having a countdown right before your eyes is a powerful reminder that while taking your time washing up may be relaxing, it doesn’t change how much water goes down the drain.

And keeping track can become like a game—a private competition to beat your own records for quickest shower. Then again, that could very well just be some of our own nerdy-ness showing through. But I digress.

We’ve certainly become more aware during our use of the Effergy Showertime Monitor; and when it comes to sustainability and environmental conservation, awareness is often half the battle.


P.S. We’re having an open house tomorrow: stop by and if you’re lucky, win a prize!


Power Smarter

BelkinConserve_strip            For the same price as an X-Pass at the Wade King Student Recreation Center, a Belkin power strip offers a more versatile way to utilize energy. The Belkin Conserve Switch AV  strip comes with an impressive ten outlets—leaving plenty of room for your computer, phone charger, desk lamp, and any other wired devices you like to keep close-at-hand. But its size isn’t what makes the Belkin strip so incredible, it’s how that size is compensated for.

What’s the biggest deterrent of power strips that feature as many plugs as the Belkin? Energy consumption. While having all your electronics hooked up in one place is convenient, you may wince when you think of how much electricity it saps up during idle time. Further, not every power strip is easy to get to, so the motivation to unplug your devices when not in use decreases even more.

Enter the Belkin solution.

Eight of the strip’s ten available outlets are controllable with the use of a wireless remote switch, which ceases power to those plugs when desired. The remaining two outlets remain charged for any devices that require continuous power.

The wireless remotes have a range of up to sixty feet and can be mounted on a wall or remain free-standing. We have two power strips in our room, and each power strip has it’s own remote.   We chose to mount our remotes in different places: one beside a desk, the other below the bedroom light switches. It was nice to have the option to decide where our remotes would be most effective for our own personal needs (plus the opportunity to draw Xs on the walls where we wanted the devices to be was way too much fun). The customization made the introduction to Belkin easy and exciting.

The only challenge that comes with the Belkin system is training yourself to use it. When you’ve gone your whole life without thinking about turning off your outlets, getting into the habit can be hard. But we are fortunate in that Belkin offers one of the greatest incentives for our memories—a simple addition to our routines that provides a foundation for continued energy consciousness.

Cooling Down


*Photos not scaled*

Having a full-sized fridge at college is a luxury in-and-of itself—it’s much easier to keep that take-out dining hall food fresh. But when you take a look at the differences between our previous 1999 Kenmore refrigerator with our new Electrolux model; well, there’s hardly a comparison.

In addition to its sleek, modern facade, our new fridge sports an internal light that is less harsh on the eyes, while still powerful enough to keep you from fumbling for that midnight snack.

Despite being slightly smaller in capacity than our previous fridge, the Electrolux still offers more than enough room. Both the refrigeration and freezer sections have temperature control systems that are steady and reliable.

But every appliance comes with its quirks. Ours just happens to be an occasional sound eerily reminiscent of the chickens that populate the Outback Farm just north of Buchanan Towers. The “chicken noise”, as we like to call it, comes sporadically and without any great disruption to our daily routines. More than anything, it serves as an excellent conversation piece with guests.

While it may let out the occasional squawk, the Electrolux has important things to say.  Its energy savings easily puts Kenmore to shame. The old model was estimated to use approximately 654 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year while the new fridge uses an estimated 387 kWh. The estimated savings of the new fridge is fourteen dollars each year.

It’s incredible to think that two appliances with the same purpose can be so different in their executions. And when thinking in terms of entire dorm buildings full of refrigerators, those differences really begin to add up—both financially and environmentally.

So, for the sake of our wallets, our leftovers, and our ecosystems, we say: “make the change”.

Cluck cluck,

Libby & Jacquelyn

Lighting the Way

The LED fixture in our living room before the cover, otherwise known as the diffuser is put on.

The LED fixture in our living room before the cover, otherwise known as the diffuser is put on.

There’s something satisfying in knowing that your lighting is more efficient, that a step so small is the foundation for a revolution of change. Having had the chance to live amongst the standard dorm lighting for our first quarter at Western, we have had a unique opportunity to see the difference LED light bulbs really make.

Light in our dorm now seems less harsh, while simultaneously illuminating the space to a greater extent. It’s a difference we notice most significantly in the evenings- or during a particularly cloudy day when the natural light is dim and we’re working at our desks. Before the SEED alterations we would often have to supplement the overhead lighting with desk lamps in order to see clearly, but the LEDs alone are now more than enough for me to be comfortable.

Many people may associate LED lighting with harsh contrasts and slow warm-up time, but these LEDs are of a new generation far exceeding the previous. To remedy this issue the LEDs are now clustered in smaller portions and then covered to diffuse the light and make it less harsh while still achieving greater brightness than incandescent lighting.

On paper, the proof is even more compelling. After measuring the electrical output of our living room lamp on multiple occasions we found the 8 watt bulb to have a reading of 9.6 kilowatt hours. Quite impressive when compared to the 32 watt bulb the lamp used to contain.  Less energy for less money creating more light. Crazy right?

The new LED bulbs in our dorm have a price range between 29 to 39 dollars, while the average incandescent bulb is around $1.25.  From a perspective of price it may seem clear that the incandescent is more cost efficient- but let me tell you, it’s not!  The projected lifespan of an LED is 50,000 hours while an incandescent is 1,200 hours.  Based on these estimates the cost of maintaining the same lighting fixture with an incandescent will end up costing about $52 over its lifespan (which means replacing the bulb 41 times).

That’s a savings of about $23 dollars per bulb per lifespan- imagine the effects multiplied! Not until SEED had we been able to see just how much more practical and efficient it really is—especially in a dorm setting.

Hope your week is as bright as ours,

Libby, Jacquelyn & SEED team


Source: eartheasy: Solutions for Sustainable Living