Sept. 17, 2009

Live Green tip: Know your surroundings

by Merry Rankin, director of sustainability

Now that you have been back on campus for a while and reaquainted yourself with your buildings, classrooms and offices, take a minute to familiarize yourself with your "green" surroundings.

More tips
For more energy-saving tips, see Green Tip of the Week archives.

Certainly there is a lot of green in our vibrant campus landscaping. However, the green surroundings I'm referring to are things in your buildings, classrooms and offices that allow you to contribute to the Live Green Initiative.

Look for things like:

  • Recycling bins. Iowa State readily offers opportunities for recycling such items as paper, confidential documents, cardboard, journals and periodicals, and electronics. Find the recycling outlets that will be useful for you and your program and make use of them.
  • Light switches. I'm sure you know where the light switches are in your buildings, but do you know what every light switch does? Some building occupants on campus discovered they could save considerable money simply by labeling their light switches. The labels allowed them to selectively turn off lights in certain areas.
  • Water drips. Where there's water -- restrooms, drinking fountains, labs and breakrooms -- there can be leaks. If you spot a leak, report it. Even the tiniest leak can waste nearly 20,000 gallons of water each year.
  • Energy consumption. Under the new budget model, energy savings in campus buildings goes back to the college or unit. You can track your building's monthly consumption, compare it to previous years, and see how close you are to the president's 15 percent energy consumption reduction goal. Go to and start tracking.

In many cases, the biggest impact you can make is through just knowing and monitoring your surroundings.