February 18, 2008

Black box brings attention to energy usage on campus

black box

By now, the campus community has probably seen the big black box resting near the Binary Walkway.

Measuring 8'x8'x4', the box was designed to show the campus community the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from approximately 250 hours of laptop usage. The university's sustainability office and ΔE (pronounced 'delta E'), an undergraduate club aimed at making positive changes in campus energy consumption, constructed the project.

"When you think about the fact that there are 4,000 undergraduates and numerous faculty, staff and graduate students all using computers, the "boxes" start to pile up pretty quickly," said Mark Wrobleski, vice president of ΔE and a third-year chemical engineering undergraduate. "We have to use computers to stay connected and complete assignments, but we can reduce the size of our own personal black box by adjusting the power settings on our laptops to ensure that they use minimal power during periods of non use, and making sure that we turn them off when we go to sleep at night."

To construct the box, which is scheduled to remain in place until tomorrow, ΔE members compared power cord adapters from a variety of laptops and averaged the energy consumption. Armed with the knowledge that the campus' energy comes from burning coal and the conversion rates to translate energy consumption to green house gas emissions, the students were able to estimate the amount of atmosphere-disrupting gas that is produced.

The installation was designed to demonstrate that small characteristics of everyday life have a big impact. Personal electronics, office and research equipment, and cell phone or mp3 chargers constantly consume energy, which takes its toll on the health of the region and the planet.

Although seeing the amount of energy consumption from just one item is astonishing, the message isn't about doom and gloom. Instead, ΔE and the sustainability group encourage small steps to make a difference.

University Fellow for Energy Studies Linda Robson focuses on common sense actions, and she echoed Wrobleski's sentiments. "We're not asking anyone to go on a diet or work in the dark, but we are asking people to pay more attention to their choices. It's easy to power down computers, enable the double sided function on our computer lab printers, or simply turn off lights when leaving a room or office."

Learn more about the university's sustainability program. Undergraduates interested in getting involved with ΔE are invited to attend the organization's next general body meeting at 7 p.m., February 26 in the Thwing Center atrium. If interested in the group but unable to attend the meeting, send e-mail to Mark Wrobleski.

For more information contact Kimyette Finley, 216.368.0521.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, February 18, 2008 09:41 AM | News Topics: Campus Life, Energy, Environment, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Science, Staff, Students, Technology

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.