Wellesley College Cuts Energy Costs, Contributes to Relief Efforts

For immediate release:
May 11, 2006
Arlie Corday

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Like many institutions around the country, Wellesley College has set energy conservation goals this year. With heating and electrical costs soaring, increased efforts to stop waste and conserve resources have seen outstanding results over the past months on campus. From May 1-7, a special effort targeted residence halls’ electrical use, with a competition and prize for energy savings.

“We are going to take the money we would have put into the winning residence hall’s pizza party and put it toward one of the ongoing Katrina relief projects that are such an important legacy of this year’s student work,” explained Director of Physical Plant Peter Zuraw as the competition to save electricity began.

The results were even better than organizers had hoped.

“We had expected a 4% savings over our historic target based on all of the effort to date,” said Zuraw. “We did almost 1.3% better than that at 5.3% In real numbers, the additional savings this week from everyone's effort was about 8,000 kilowatt hours. That is approximately the energy use of a typical Massachusetts home for one year. That is great work.”

Zuraw went on to describe the savings from a Wellesley point of view: “If all 2,300 students here watched a DVD on 2,300 brand new Apple laptops for 31.5 hours straight, we’d almost use that much energy,” he said.

The benefit to Hurricane Katrina victims, in which Wellesley aimed to donate $150 for each percent of the new savings, translates into a $200 donation toward relief efforts based on the 1.3% cut.

Wellesley senior and House Presidents Council President Kate Derrick and other students spearheaded the effort, including sending daily e-mail reminders and energy-saving tips, such as using natural rather than artificial light and turning off lights when rooms are not in use.

“The energy effort came about last semester as Pete Zuraw and Kate Salop, of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, worked with myself and House Presidents Council, WEED (Wellesley Energy and Environmental Defense) and College Government to decrease student energy consumption,” explained Derrick. “We hoped that a movement led by peers would be more effective in getting the word out to students about energy sustainability. From the start, we knew that many students care about the issue of saving energy, but might not have been aware about ways that they could have decreased their own consumption in small ways.”

Derrick met with former College Government President Lindsey Boylan, former WEED President Phoebe Poole and current WEED President Samantha Tackeff throughout the year to formulate ideas on how to increase awareness. She also worked with Zuraw on the idea of promoting a week-long energy campaign.

“As an incentive, we hoped to give students a chance to contribute not only to the environment, but also to a charitable cause, such as Hurricane Katrina Relief,” Derrick said. “We're very happy with the savings that we had last week and it shows that even the smallest effort from students can make a huge difference.”

In addition, Wellesley joined in a nationwide effort this spring called RecycleMania 2006, in which college campuses worked to increase recycling.

“ We recycled more paper and cardboard in the first two months of this semester than we did all of last semester,” Zuraw reported. “And that was our goal: participation and a better sense of our overall potential for recycling. The work this semester has also helped us understand more about our processes so that we can try to work on them this summer. This has been a brief precursor to our intended semester-long competition this fall.”

Both the recycling and energy conservation competitions are part of the efforts undertaken this year by the Sustainability Advisory Committee and the Physical Plant to raise awareness on campus about environmentally friendly practices and to educate members of the community about what they can do to conserve resources, reduce waste and pursue other sustainable practices.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more information, go to www.wellesley.edu.