Students lead the way with university energy audits

Thursday 15-12-2016 - 17:02

This autumn the NUS supported a number of students’ unions and their universities to run the bi-annual Blackout event across their campuses.

Blackout events bring students and staff together on a Friday night to audit energy consumption across the university – the aim is to work out just how much energy is being wasted over a typical weekend due to things being left on. Developed by the University of Southampton's Sustainability Action Programme, this nationwide campaign is now in its fourth year.

Four students’ unions and their institutions – University of Reading, Aberystwyth University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the University of Winchester – took part in the November Blackouts. As well as being a fun engagement activity for students, the events highlight the importance of simple energy-saving behaviours, and promote broader sustainability initiatives on campus. This time around, over 100 staff and students donned their Blackout hoodies and undertook comprehensive audits of their universities’ use (or misuse!) of energy.

Liz Harris, Environmental Projects Assistant from the University of Winchester, says:

‘This year was the first time we've taken part in the national Blackout event, so we didn’t quite know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised with 26 students and six staff happily volunteering on the Friday night. Everyone had a lot of fun and together we switched off over 1,700 electrical items including monitors, PCs, speakers and chargers. This resulted in an amazing campus wide energy saving of 19.97% over that weekend. We do a lot of work to encourage staff and students to save energy across campus, and the Blackout showed that there are significant savings still to be made, with the activity of the volunteers identifying potential savings over £19,000 per year!’

Following the hard work of the audits, volunteers let off some steam at the after parties, held in conjunction with students’ unions. Aberystwyth volunteers demonstrated their sustainability credentials even further by cooking up a surplus-food-storm of soups and salads, reducing the environmental impact of the whole event and underlining the importance of a holistic approach to sustainability on campus.

In total, ten organisations are involved in the 2016/2017 Blackout cohort, and all are now planning events for March, to get even more students involved and to revisit audited buildings to monitor their ongoing energy use.

If you would like your college or university to take part in the Blackout, please get in touch with Jen Strong to sign up and arrange event support from the NUS in January and February 2017. For more information visit www.nus.org.uk/blackout.

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