Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

Update from Longhorn Lights Out!  Things continue to go well with our program thanks to IBM’s support!  We have now completed 6 LLO events, and continue to build on our experiences to create at great campus energy conservation program. This past month, after turning off lights on campus, we watch the documentary “Switch” by Dr Tinker, a UT Austin Faculty Member.  We are also in the process of making a video about LLO to share with the world, thanks to the support from the UT Environmental Science Institute!  Thank you to all the enthusiastic student volunteers who have helped out so far – we look forward to one last event before the end of the semester!  We also look forward to presenting about our progress at the Engineers for a Sustainable World national conference this Saturday! We hope other universities will develop similar programs of their own!

Below is a recent article a UT Student, Elizabeth Robinson, wrote about our March event. Enjoy!

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Longhorn Lights Out encourages community to conserve energy

On Friday, March 28, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to turn off light switches, computer monitors and other electronics as part of Longhorn Lights Out. The monthly event aims to raise awareness of energy conservation on campus and in the community.

Longhorn Lights Out’s latest event on Feb. 28, garnered volunteers who turned off lights in 28 buildings on campus, including 363 lights, 15 projectors and 189 computer monitors. This yielded a 14 percent energy reduction to each building visited.

During each event, organized by the UT Energy and Water Conservation Program (EWC), groups of two to five students visit up to four buildings together to turn of lights and electronics.

Past events have drawn as many as 50 volunteers who turned off 631 light switches, 49 projectors and 266 computer monitors in 35 buildings. In Fall 2013, EWC increased the frequency of the event to once every two months. In November, the University of Texas showed its support for the event by turning the Main Tower’s lights off for a night.

“As an iconic symbol of UT, we are so grateful and encouraged by UT’s support of this event,” said Kristen Cetin, a civil engineering graduate student.

EWC organized the first LLO in the spring 2013 semester. Staff, faculty and students were asked to turn off their lights and electronics. The event accomplished a 2.9 percent reduction of energy.

“This was very encouraging, but student involvement had been minimal,” Cetin said.

Since its first event, EWC has been able to partner with other student groups, including Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), the Campus Environmental Center and ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers). Longhorn Lights Out was held twice during the Fall 2013 semester. Now, the event is held monthly, on the last Friday of each month.

“Eventually we hope to expand [Longhorn Lights Out] to the wider community and hope to get schools and the general public involved or allow them to participate in LLO events in their own homes,” Cetin said.

With the support of the university and increasing participation from students, Longhorn Lights Out continues to work to achieve whole-campus participation.

In the ideal situation, the number of light switches and electronics we turn out each time we do Longhorn Lights Out should be close to zero,” Cetin said. “Then we know that everyone is participating.

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The University of Texas at Austin, through partnership between the UT Energy & Water Conservation ProgramEngineers for a Sustainable World, and ASHRAE , have developed an energy conservation program called Longhorn Lights Out.  This program’s purpose is to engage students, faculty, and staff in reducing energy use. Once a month students meet on Friday’s at 6:30 pm, and split up to survey all the campus buildings to reduce energy use by turning off lights, and electronics.  

- post by Kristen Cetin

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