Help Duke Cut Electricity Use During Holidays

Turn off electronics, lights when out of the office

As Duke works toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2024, a large part of the effort lies with energy use.

About 50 percent of Duke's greenhouse gas emissions come from purchased electricity, from the computers at employee desks to lighting buildings across campus. As part of its Climate Action Plan, Duke has a goal of reducing energy use in existing buildings by 15 percent by 2030.

In fiscal year 2010-2011, university buildings consumed 154.1 million kilowatts of power, a .7 percent increase from the prior year. The increase is small enough that it can be attributed to normal fluctuations in weather and additional equipment and systems coming online, said Steve Palumbo, energy manager for Facilities Management.

"Through the Climate Action Plan, we're working every day to find areas where we can cut back energy use through projects like using more LED or energy-efficient lamps or ventilating our lab buildings more efficiently," he said. "We're constantly doing analysis on buildings so we have a better idea of where and how energy is used on campus."

During the winter holidays, when students are away and many staff and faculty take vacation, there are plenty of ways Duke community members can help reduce energy use and help keep Duke sustainable during the holidays. Something as simple as turning off a desktop computer for one week saves the equivalent energy of burning 1.5 gallons of gas, although faculty and staff should first check with their office's IT staff to ensure that computers can be turned off.

Here are some other steps to be more sustainable during the holidays:

  • Unplug all computer peripherals, such as monitors, printers and speakers.
  • Turn off all lights, including desk lamps and overhead lighting.
  • Close and lock all operable windows to keep indoor temperatures steady.
  • Disconnect or unplug unnecessary office appliances while employees are away.

"The holidays are a great time to unwind and unplug and it's easy for faculty and staff to unplug from the energy grid too," said Casey Roe, outreach coordinator for Sustainable Duke. "Making some of these small changes can help Duke in the big picture."