July 22, 2010

Where's Bob?

Grass-roots energy savers realize big time savings

by Diana Pounds

Grass-roots efforts to cut energy use at Iowa State last year succeeded to the tune of $3 million in savings.

Green teams and individuals across the university deserve the credit for a nearly 8 percent drop in electricity use during fiscal year 2010, said Dave Miller, director of facilities planning and management operations. University use of gas, chilled water and steam also dropped from FY09 to FY10.

Miller noted that reduced energy usage occurred despite the addition of two new facilities to campus in FY10.

"We added the Biorenewables Research Laboratory and College of Design's King Pavilion and still reduced our energy consumption and lowered our utility bill," he said.

"This trend of reduced energy use is not isolated," Miller said. "It's all across the university and it's very encouraging."

Green teams make a difference

One reflection of interest in conservation is the emergence of green teams on campus, Miller said. Some 30 green teams have emerged at Iowa State to work on sustainable issues in various pockets of the campus.

A student team encourages recycling in campus housing. A dining team works to eliminate food waste and promote composting. And many teams are putting their energies into reducing energy use in their units, departments and buildings.

Such groups often work closely with FPM staff to find ways to cut kilowatts.

"They ask 'what can we do?' and we can usually provide them with simple things that are very effective," Miller said.

"These grass-roots teams, as well as other individuals on campus, have decided that they can make a difference," he said. "They're choosing to do this voluntarily and I love that."

Miller believes ISU's new budget model encourages and supports green behavior. Under the new model, individual units -- rather than central administration -- pay the energy bills.

Savings = 4,000 tons of coal

"They see the bills now, so they know when they are making a difference," Miller said. "And last year, they collectively saved more than $3 million that they could put back into programs."

To the energy savings, Miller added another environmental highlight: "That's 4,000 tons of coal we didn't have to burn."