Penn community asked to save energy for Power Down Challenge

In a calendar year, the average member of the Penn community consumes 15,724 kilowatt-hours of energy. That’s enough power to fully charge an iPhone 6 for 4,138 years, or watch TV for 18 consecutive years.

In an effort to encourage more energy-efficient habits at the University, the Green Campus Partnership is hosting its annual, month-long Power Down Challenge. The initiative, lasting through the end of February, is intended to increase dialogue on campus about environment, energy, and climate issues.

“Our building performance has gotten better in terms of electricity use over the years,” says Dan Garofalo, Penn’s environmental sustainability director. “We’ve replaced lights, updated energy systems, but everyone still has to be aware that they have a role to play to conserve energy.”

The campaign will no longer be held as a building-to-building competition, as it has in previous years. Instead, there will be a variety of academic events across departments on campus, featuring unique exhibits, lectures, panels, and film screenings about energy issues and sustainability.

In support of the campaign, this month’s Faculty and Staff Eco-Reps meeting will focus on saving energy. Ken Ogawa, executive director of operations and maintenance in the Division of Facilities & Real Estate Services, will speak about energy consumption on campus and what Penn is doing to conserve.

On Monday, Feb. 22, the Green Campus Partnership will host a Space Heater “Amnesty” Day, where members of the Penn community can trade in their space heaters—technically prohibited on campus—for energy-efficient CozyToes heated footpads. More than 140 people have pre-registered to participate.

The campaign will culminate with a daylong Energy Reduction Challenge for the entire University on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Starting at midnight on the 24th and ending at 11:59 p.m., the Penn community is asked to turn down thermostats, turn off lights, and unplug appliances when not in use. Individuals can, for instance, take a walk at lunchtime instead of browsing the internet, charge laptops the night before, and abstain from running kitchen appliances like dishwashers, ovens, or stoves. (Discover other ways to save energy with these tips.)

A portion of the savings from that day will be donated to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships for Climate Action Research Grants, which fund undergraduate environmental research projects during the summer.

“It’s easy to participate for one day and to really commit to doing something different,” says Sustainability Outreach Manager Julian Goresko. “Hopefully, members of the Penn community learn more about the University’s commitment to addressing climate change through energy conservation, and adopt new behaviors themselves to help Penn save.”

The Green Campus Partnership is also asking students, faculty, and staff to take a short survey as part of the Power Down Challenge. The survey is intended to gauge the Penn community’s knowledge of energy issues, personal energy behaviors, and perceptions of the University’s energy reduction efforts. Participants, if interested, are entered into a raffle for Penn apparel.

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