I was pondering what could sustainability communications convenient for the students and staff at a university look like. Maybe something like they do at Harvard:
The university has its own sustainability office responsible for coordinating the sustainability issues, events and programs. On the web-pages there is a separate section devoted to sustainably data. These impact pages give nicely visualized metrics on waste reduction, recycling, water and energy use etc., and there are also infographics and other videos, and easy-to-digest instructions for students for what they can do to be more sustainable. The instructions deal with some myths while giving a list of actions to take. Also the impacts of the suggested actions are included, in the immediate Harvard scale. For instance on the topic of putting computers to sleep & turning them off, (Action 2) following information is given:
– A computer on standby uses approximately 90% less energy than an active or a logged off computer, and a computer that’s turned off uses still less!
-If you’re worried about the amount of time it takes to boot up a computer in the morning, then place it on standby- it takes only a few seconds to wake up, and saves almost as much energy.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
-computers are designed to handle 40,000 on-off cycles before failure, so turning them on and off is not bad for them.Screen savers do not save energy. Certain graphics-intensive screen savers can cause the computer to burn twice as much energy and may prevent a computer from entering sleep mode.
-If every student, faculty, and staff member ran their computer 24/7 for a year without sleep mode or powering off, it would result in 16.3 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Turning those computers off or into a low power standby state for 1/2 of that time could save us: $1.3 MILLION in utility bills and 8.2 MILLION pounds of CO. That’s like taking 700 cars off the road!
If you are left wondering about the calculations you can request more information on the data sources and the assumptions behind for the calculations. That at least looks like transparency and also adds to make the information more convincing.
In addition, the pages are clear, information is easy to find and the usual colors are changed to green to make the messages of sustainability stand out from the rest of the web-pages. I especially like the fact that there is no trace of guilt in the communication, just encouragement to act more sustainably. For instance the Green Tip of the Month page has downloadable pdf-posters with flyers for ideas that can easily be implemented in the university buildings, classrooms, dorms, offices, or lab or even at home. The pages are really trying to make the change towards more sustainable behavior easy while giving proof that even the small steps count. Looking at the pages I think it is easy to think “why not” and turn off your laptop more often than before.
What a good way for marketing the university, as well.