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2 million pounds of CO2 -- $230K -- are saved in campus energy conservation contest

Student volunteer Lai Yee Ho '12 helped the six CALS buildings save energy in the CALS Green energy-saving competition by conducting audits and giving employees tips.

Staff and students in Barton Lab in Geneva, N.Y., will be rewarded for their eco-friendly ways after placing first in a yearlong energy conservation competition.

Nov. 30 marked the end of the CALS Green pilot project, which aimed to cut energy use in six College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) buildings by encouraging such environmentally conscious behaviors as switching off lights, composting and closing fume hoods.

The initiative has led to commitments from faculty, staff and students to cut an estimated 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, saving almost $230,000 in annual energy costs.

Building users in Barton Lab -- which had the highest participation rate, topping 50 percent -- were responsible for 801,988 pounds of that carbon savings. They will celebrate their accomplishment at a building party in January.

Wing Hall came in a close second, followed by Comstock, Morrison and Bradfield halls and the Plant Science Building.

The project was a partnership between CALS and the university's Office of Energy and Sustainability and was the first college-level attempt to save energy through a coordinated behavioral change campaign. It also involved several researchers from the Department of Communication, including Katherine McComas and Susan Fussell, who study behavioral change, and student conservation interns from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, who went door-to-door to the 160 labs in the six buildings to inventory energy use and make recommendations for further efficiency.

CALS Green competition used a novel Web-based platform and social networking to motivate occupants in the six buildings to practice energy conservation in their individual workplaces.

"The project worked because it leveraged the Internet to create a platform that allowed people to 'customize' their energy-saving and sustainability actions to specific things over which they had personal control, whether that was in a lab space or an office cubicle," said Lauren Chambliss, project director. "And it had feedback features that gave people instant access to information that let them see how much their individual behavior could add up over time, and make a difference."

Such success has prompted interest in implementing the project on a larger scale.

"The university is interested in rolling out a 'successor' of CALS Green with a new and improved online platform," said project outreach coordinator Dominic Frongillo. "Ideas and feedback from our pilot users have been crucial to the success of the project and will be even more important in guiding our recommendations for the next stage."

CALS Green was an important milestone in the campus effort to create a broad "culture of sustainability," said Mike Hoffmann, CALS associate dean and director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, who first conceived of the college-level energy-conservation effort.

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


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