Small Thinking to Save the Planet

Thursday, August 16, 2012

guy holding light bulbs that almost look like light sabers

Sometimes it is really cool how the little things can add up to make a big difference. Take light bulbs for instance. Last year we found out that there was a new type of fluorescent light bulb on the market that uses about 25 watts instead of 32 watts. (sarcastic voice) "Biiiiggggg deal right, 6 watts... what an amazing technology!"

And I would normally agree with you because 6 watts isn't that  much. But.... in this case it is 19%. And did I mention that we replaced 80,000 light bulbs around the campus, including our satellite campuses at 200 Lees and Roger Guidon. That means that we were able to shed 480,000 watts (or 460kW).

So what does 460kW mean? Well it means that the University was able to save over $190,000 (assuming that the lamps are only on for 10 hours a day - 3,600hours x 6 watts = 21.6kWh per year x 80,000lamps x $0.11 = $190,800/year). The project was completed in 6 months and has a 2 year payback -  good economics. And from an environmental point of view this means about 8 trees a year of sequestered CO2.

Now the other big problem that we had was how to properly dispose of the light bulbs? Our first thought was recycling but we wanted to make sure that all the lamps got full use. So we decided to go with reuse. We gave away thousands of light bulbs to property management firms in Ottawa and we partnered up with an organization in Duala, Cameron to take the rest (at our cost).

When you scale up things on a campus of our size, you can make a big difference. In this case, the light bulbs were replaced will offset the electricity consumed by the new Social Science Tower. So what else could be accomplished with small thinking? 

*The information in this post was provided by Jon Chiasson in collaboration with the Engineering and Operations group at Physical Resources Service.

~ jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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