On Tuesday, Feb. 26 the Sustainability Integration Office is launching Be Bright, a pilot program to raise awareness and educate students about energy consumption on campus in a semester-long energy literacy campaign. The Sustainability Integration Office hopes the project will inform students and push them to be more conscientious of their own energy consumption while involving the campus in reaching carbon neutrality. The campaign’s events will include an exhibit in Davis Family Library on March 11, a “pledge ride” event on March 6, a series of community dinners and the launch of a new Tumblr site which can be found at go/BeBright.
“The goal of this whole campaign is to educate students about energy use at Middlebury and why their actions are important and how they effect campus-wide energy usage,” said Sustainability Communication and Outreach Coordinator Avery McNiff ’12. “It’s important to think about the consequences of one’s own energy use in the world outside of Middlebury with the understanding that the use of energy effects the environment, economics and politics at personal, local, global scales.”
The Be Bright campaign distributed surveys to the student body in January in order to collect data on what students already know and would like to know about energy consumption on campus.
“The survey was designed to gauge both students perceptions of energy consumption and current practices of energy conservation,” said Luke Elder ’13, a student involved in the campaign.
The survey generated several inquiries among the student body, such as “Will we reach our goal of carbon neutrality?” and “How much energy do the solar panels near the organic garden generate?” Answers to these questions will be posted on the Be Bright tumblr site throughout the semester.
The Feb. 26 launch dinner, to be held in Atwater Dining Hall, will serve local food and will feature a speech by Schumann Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben. After dinner, students will have the opportunity to be photographed with their energy pledge, which will then be posted on the Tumblr page.
“We’re hoping that this [will create] a record of the pledges made,” explained McNiff. “They can be creative, even something very simple such as to turn off their lights every time they leave their room. We want people to be able to adapt it to their own lifestyle.”
In the days following the dinner, pledge stations will be set up around campus so students can write their pledge on a whiteboard, take a picture with it and post it on the Tumblr page.
The site already features a photo of McKibben holding his pledge, which reads, “to keep campaigning for a clean future”.
“We’ve found a lot of students want to know about carbon neutrality, and where we are on the path to carbon neutrality and so we’re trying to tie this into the energy literacy campaign,” said McNiff. “They want to know about our energy sources, where they come from, how the biomass [plant] works, what will we do to get to carbon neutrality, what we count in our carbon footprint. We need to make the answers to these questions available to students if we want to foster an energy literate community at Middlebury. We hope that in the effort to educate students we can also increase a sense of awareness and involvement. The idea for carbon neutrality initially came from students and it is crucial for students to continue to play a role in getting there.”
While the student body is often considered to already be environmentally conscious due to the College’s organized attempts to reach carbon neutrality, the energy literacy campaign seeks to educate students about the environmental effects of their behavior on a more individual level.
“I think energy literacy is important because energy consumption is one of the main ways that the average student contributes to the college’s greenhouse gas emissions on a daily basis,” said Elder. “Learning more about how seemingly small, daily decisions can impact the College’s energy use can collectively have a large impact on campus.”
Additionally, the campaign will incorporate different departments and elements of campus life that may not have been previously involved with energy issues on campus. For example, an exhibit of silkscreen pieces created by Ali Andrew ’12.5 titled “Energy Imprints” has been installed in McCullough as a part of the project.
“What I would like to see happen most is for students to discover a greater sense of connection with the college environment,” said Julian Macrone ’14, who is involved in the campaign and interned for Director of Sustainability Integration Jack Byrne this summer.
“As much as the campaign aims to reduce energy usage, I think the long-term goal for the campaign is to really foster a greater understanding regarding how campus functions, and how our own actions shape the workings of that environment. If this can help construct a greater sense of ownership of their environment in students, then hopefully this will set the groundwork for an enduring sense of responsibility and a lifetime of stewardship in whatever environment students may find themselves in.”