Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2009 | News

Turn It Off

By IAM Staff
This past spring, the University of Iowa flipped the switch.

ILLUSTRATION: BUCK JONES
College campuses join together to save energy—and the planet.

As at 18 other colleges and universities, UI faculty, staff, and students pledged to "Power Down for the Planet" and significantly reduce energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative involved simple tasks, such as changing the power manage-ment settings on personal computers, turning off campus computers at night, and purchasing energy-efficient equipment.

By the time the challenge ended in mid-April, the UI community boasted the highest campus-wide participation rate with more than 6,000 pledges to practice greener computer habits. Organizers estimated that the project's 17,520 total pledges offset 3,197 tons of carbon.

"'Power Down for the Planet' is primarily an awareness campaign, but one that underscores how easy it is to waste valuable resources without really thinking," says Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability, which partnered with UI Information Technology Services on the campaign. "Fortunately, in the case of computers, there's also a relatively easy fix."

Event organizers know the impact of such small steps can prove tremendous. One computer on "sleep mode" when not in use can save up to $60 per year in energy consumption—and nearly half a ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Just by employing power management features on all computers, a university with 70,000 networked computers could save up to $3.7 million per year (and reduce pollution by the equivalent of taking 6,300 cars off the road for one year). On a national scale, college students could save more than $206 million in energy costs by simply enabling power-saving features on their desktops.

The campaign is just one measure in a broader scope of energy conservation strategies at the UI. Last year, President Sally Mason asked the UI community to make sustainability a priority in all aspects of university life and charged campus with achieving a ten percent reduction in energy consumption by 2010.