Powersave interns strive to save energy on campus

Liz Geiman

LED lights in every building, parking lots that reflect sunlight and single stream recycling all sound like a thing of the future, especially on a college campus. However, PowerSave Campus, a sustainability organization, is working to make students aware that it is possible.

Based in California, the organization has expanded across the country. The group, which the Alliance to Save Energy and Tennessee Valley Authority funds, now has roots at six universities, including WKU.

The program, which is run by four interns and a program coordinator, focuses on spreading awareness of saving energy on campus and the community.

WKU Sustainability coordinator and PowerSave Campus coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing, who also works with the Tennessee Valley Authority, introduced the program to the university more than a year ago.

“They gave me a heads-up on the program, so I applied and we were accepted,” Ryan-Downing said.

A big factor in WKU’s acceptance was the strong sustainability program that already exists at the university, Ryan-Downing said.

Specifically, PowerSave Campus must save 40,000-kilowatt hours of energy on campus. To help meet their goal, the Office of Sustainability, located at 503 Regents Ave., is giving out free CFL light bulbs if students pledge to use them on campus. Compact fluorescent light bulbs can save 75 percent more energy than an incandescent light bulb.

The interns are responsible for educating students and staff by planning educational events. Recently, PowerSave held a “green” career panel, where six people spoke to a group about how sustainability relates to their jobs and helped students recognize the connection within their own majors.

 Georgetown senior Mary Boothe is an English and advertising major and is an intern with PowerSave. Boothe works to raise awareness for the group’s initiatives.

“My goal is to expand,” she said. “I want to let people know what (PowerSave Campus) is and how they can get engaged.”

The interns write a monthly newsletter called The Live Circuit with information on how to conserve energy.

The August issue addressed the amount of energy it takes to produce bottled water. PowerSave team leader Ashley McCloughan said the process requires between 5.6 and 10.2 million joules of energy per liter, which is enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 1-2 days. McCloughan encouraged students to get reusable bottles and “kick the habit of buying plastic water bottles.”

Boothe described how WKU is already on its way to being a “green” campus.

“There are energy-efficient light bulbs in every building, we use natural gas instead of coal, and there are solar sheets at the Preston Center to heat the pool,” she said. “I’m excited what (PowerSave Campus) has brought to campus.”