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 Saving Energy this Winter

New LED Lights in Ordean Court 

UMD's Sustainable Campus

UMD is “going green.” UMD is part of a growing national movement. The university has joined 600 other colleges concerned about greenhouse gases and global warming. The colleges signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to promise to reduce greenhouse gases. To reflect UMD’s commitment, the university has come up with a new plan to save money and conserve energy over the holiday break.

The holiday period, which lasts from Dec. 24 through Jan. 3, includes only two regular work days, and UMD is planning to go into a low-occupancy mode during the decreased work schedule. This means that the ventilation and temperature in campus buildings will be scaled back for 11 consecutive days during the break.

With energy costs rising, sustainability is something on everyone’s mind. According to UMD Sustainability Coordinator Mindy Granley, 90 percent of UMD’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the steam plant that heats the campus buildings, the electricity purchased to power those buildings and everything in them from offices to classrooms and computers. “Our campus spends around $2.5 million per year on electricity. Why not try to save every watt and every penny? Especially when energy costs are on the rise,” Granley said. In addition to heat savings, the electricity saved will be substantial. The Office of Sustainability asks that campus members join in and turn off lights, computers, electrical devices, and appliances over the break.

The campus recently replaced the lighting in Ordean Court with new LED lights to help reduce the UMD carbon footprint. With the old lights, each bulb drew 5 watts while the new LED lights draw only 0.2 watts per bulb. Granley said the new LED lights will pay for their cost in energy savings in about two years. The bulbs run at an estimated $68 per year in electricity, and they also add a festive touch to the campus.

CLA Student Anne Rittgers and a Smart Strip, a powerstrip that detects when devices are idle for a specified period of time or off, and automatically turns them off. The average Smart Strip costs between $30 and $40.  

Use powerstrips to shut off computers and electrical devices when they arenít in use.

Anne Rittgers, an economics major in the College of Liberal Arts, says she and her friends are making a new tradition this holiday season. "I plan to make lots of gifts for my friends and family," she said. She also tries to buy local and handmade items. "I use," where people post their own handmade items and you can search by location. “Handmade gifts are perfect, even if they're not gorgeous, because the recipient will know you put a lot of time and thought into their present.” Rittgers also likes to reuse ribbons and bows as much as possible when she wraps her presents, both to save money and the environment. “Paper bags from the grocery store are perfect to wrap gifts in, and then draw or paint something on them to make them look nice,” she said.

As for being sustainable all the time, Rittgers has a few more suggestions.

- Use powerstrips to shut off computers and electrical devices when they aren’t in use. “I only have one power outlet in my room at home, so I have one powerstrip where I plug everything in. I switch it off during the day when I go to school or at night when I'm not using anything, so nothing in my room is drawing unnecessary energy." Smart Strip is a powerstrip that can detect when devices are idle for a specified period of time or off, and automatically turns them off. The average Smart Strip costs between $30 and $40.
- Turn the lights off when you leave a room.
- Do full loads of laundry instead of half loads to conserve water.
- Recycle.
- Seal windows in the winter to block drafts and keep your house warm while keeping the bill lower.
- Turn the water off when you brush your teeth.
- Close and lock windows. (Energy audit rule-of-thumb: Each cubic foot of conditioned air leaving a building wastes around $3 worth of energy.)
- Unplug all unnecessary appliances, including phone and other electronic device chargers.
- Shut down your computer, monitor, speakers, and printer; consider a simple power strip if you don't have one. (Myth buster: Powering down a computer does NOT cause wear and tear or reduce the life of a machine. Modern computers are designed to handle 40,000 on-off cycles, many more than the life span of the average computer.)

Rittgers recommends UMD's Sustainability Blog, “Nobody can do everything perfect in a sustainability sense, but it's about trade-offs and making the best choices that you can,” she said.


Written by Donna O'Neill

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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Last modified on 04/22/11 02:34 PM
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