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“Turn it Off” encourages Messiah College students to be responsible power users

When we roll out of bed each morning a similar routine typically ensues: flip on the lights, take a shower, start the coffee maker, watch the news, pop bread in the toaster, read e-mails, blow dry hair, and open the garage door. What often gets overlooked in this whole process is the amount of electricity we use. Students at Messiah, however, are combating over-use of electricity by encouraging each other to “turn it off.”

Why “Turn it Off?”
The “Turn if Off” campaign, funded by a PA Department of Environmental Protection grant, is a student initiative born out of Earthkeepers, the biology club that educates students about Christian stewardship to God’s creation, and the Restoration House, a community of students living in an off-campus house who commit to limit energy use and reduce waste. The energy reduction campaign they proposed inspired creative and fun competition among students living in campus apartments.

The real objective of the “Turn if Off” campaign goes much farther than friendly competition; it serves a dual purpose of preparing students to receive and understand real utility bills and also to track their energy use in campus apartments. Students residing in apartments receive monthly electric bills, showing them the amount of kilowatt hours they consumed, how much their apartment’s electric costs and the overall use of each apartment building. By sending students mock bills, the College hopes to bring awareness to lifestyle choices, promote responsible living as stewards of God’s creation and lower overall electricity consumption at Messiah.

The “Triple Bottom Line”
As a Christian community, Messiah encourages a “triple bottom line” approach to sustainability—considering ecological vitality, economic viability and social justice when developing each project.

“When it all comes down to it, each of the green initiatives is one more piece of the greater puzzle that is Green at Messiah. At the end of each day, each innovation and behavioral change, be it through solar water heating or growing sunflowers is an environmental commitment we make to reflect Christ’s sacrifice for us and to be responsible stewards of God and our community’s resources,” says student “Turn it Off” coordinator, Danika Foster ’12.

Do students turn it off?
By the numbers, the campaign resulted in a one million kilowatt hour reduction of energy use from January to March 2010. This fall, although the averages are a little higher, students reduced electricity in the month of October.

Since the campaign is designed as a competition, students are driven to be mindful of their electric usage. Some students have been confessing and apologizing to Foster for their high usage, while others have been turning the lights off while their roommates are in the shower or studying by the light of their cell phones to save power.

Besides considering electricity students have extra incentive to turn it off. Each month, the apartment with the lowest electricity use wins a dinner in Lottie, complete with fine china, linens, a menu and sparkling cider. At the end of the year, the apartment with the lowest overall usage will be treated to an event with free food.

Looking to the future, Foster says, “I’d love to see the program also include energy audits of the professor’s offices. We have some fun gadgets and energy monitors…that will help make these next steps a reality!”

Story by Emily Mohler `13.

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