September 18, 2013

Cornell College of Engineering Launches Green Campaign

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The College of Engineering is turning out the lights.

Through its “Think Big, Live Green” campaign, which it launched Sept. 4, the engineering college is hoping to cut the amount of waste it produces and significantly reduce its environmental footprint.Ultimately, all of Cornell’s colleges and units will participate in the campaign.

The engineering college hopes to slowly change people’s behaviors and encourage community members to act in more sustainable ways, according to Dawn McWilliams, director of marketing and communications for the college.

“The biggest idea of this campaign is about changing behaviors. Instead of coming here and flipping both my lights in the morning, I only flip on one,” McWilliams said. “There is a whole series of behaviors with which we know we’ll actually have some major impact on the electrical use throughout the college.”

To kick off the campaign, McWilliams said, the college sought to involve a large number of participants.

“We wanted something that was going to be broad-based [so] that there would be someone in every building and every department interested in doing this,” McWilliams said.

Erin Moore — energy outreach coordinator for the Energy and Sustainability division and a member of the campaign’s organizing team — said that although the campaign is starting from within the engineering school, the initiatives can be applied to all colleges and schools at Cornell.

“This is a sustainability engagement campaign based on the community culture and operations of people of different colleges and units,” she said.

In September, the college is focusing on cutting paper waste; in October, the college will focus on conserving energy in labs; in November, the college’s buildings will compete to reduce energy; and in December, the community will try to turn down thermostats. Moore also said that she hopes the campaign will educate the different units on their energy usage.

“We also want to see better waste management in colleges and units and energy reductions within the colleges and units. With a new budget model in place, this is the perfect opportunity for the campaign to educate people about sustainability,” she said.

Although the campaign has already started, Moore said that she thinks colleges still might take time to implement some of the initiatives proposed by the campaign.

“A lot of this takes a lot of time to generate, a lot of this doesn’t just happen overnight, especially the education piece. But that’s why it’s a campaign, it’s not something that you do for a little while and then forget about it,” Moore said. “We are really excited about [the campaign] and we’ve been working on it for a long time.”

The engineering college is also hoping to encourage students to be involved in educating others about sustainability through the Green Ambassadors Program, a leadership program, according to Moore.

“The Green Ambassadors learn how to communicate, to talk to each other and learn how to promote certain behaviors and discourage certain others to their peers,” Moore said.

Approximately 40 people have been trained as ambassadors, according to a University press release.