When sustainability leaders from local post-secondary institutions met to learn and share insights at the Energy Wise Network Summit on November 15, little did they know they would be working together to launch a new collaborative campaign to save energy. The idea for the BC Cool Campus Challenge arose in response to the natural gas pipeline rupture near Prince George which led FortisBC to ask everyone across the province to conserve wherever possible.
While the pipeline has since been repaired and the crisis has lifted, the BC Cool Campus Challenge is helping people rethink how we use energy. Organizers aim to use this challenge to start a conversation on energy dependency and resiliency and see it as an opportunity to demonstrate climate leadership.
With the majority of energy consumed on campuses going towards heating and cooling buildings, turning down the heat even slightly can have an impact. “More heat and hot water means more natural gas use, which means more greenhouse gas emissions,” explains James Gordon, Environmental Programs and Research Coordinator at TRU. “Although BC is blessed with relatively clean power, using natural gas is still burning a fossil fuel. We can all do more to do our part and reduce our use.” Along with adjusting the thermostat, the campaign is also focusing on gathering pledges and encouraging simple actions like wearing warm layers, taking shorter showers, and washing clothes in cold water.
The BC Cool Campus Challenge launched on January 7 and runs to the end of February. Participating institutions include: Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of British Columbia Okanagan, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Selkirk College and Thompson Rivers University.
The winner will be the institution that collects the highest percentage of energy-saving pledges from staff, students, and faculty, and the winner will receive a branded clothing item from each of the participating institutions and be crowned ‘BC’s Coolest Campus!’. To help keep more people warm this season, on behalf of the participating institutions, the winning team will donate all the warm clothing items to a local charitable organization.
Over 2000 online pledges have been collected to date. While the campaign introduces some friendly competition, organizers say it’s really about collaboration and working together towards a common goal. James adds, “We’ve been able to exchange tips and it’s been helpful to think about how we can support each other’s efforts in the future.”
Follow the hashtag #BCCoolCampus for more updates and photos!
Photos: top – Students hold up their pledge actions at an event at UBC; bottom – students tabling at an event at SFU.
Did you know?
Small steps can make a difference. Here are a few ways small changes can add up (via FortisBC):
- Turning down the thermostat an additional three degrees when you need heat, can save an average of eight gigajoules of natural gas per year. If 11 households did this simple action it could equal enough natural gas to heat one home for a year.1
- If each member of a four-person household shortens their daily shower time by two minutes, almost five gigajoules of natural gas will be saved annually. If a community of 100,000 households did the same, it could save enough natural gas to provide space heating for almost 5,000 homes for a year.2
- If a 23,000 square foot office lowered its thermostat during office hours by three degrees, it could save enough natural gas to provide space heating for one household for a year.5
- If just one per cent of BC’s restaurants (about 140 restaurants) turned off their decorative natural gas fireplaces during the heating season, it could save enough natural gas to heat about 156 homes for a year.4
1Savings are approximate, assuming a thermostat setback of an additional three degrees for when heat is needed in a natural gas heated 2,300 – 2,600 square foot home located in a FortisBC service area. On average, a home this size consumes 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually for space heating.
2Savings are approximate, assuming a 7.6 litre per minute showerhead in a four person home with a standard efficiency natural gas storage tank water heater. Assumes a home consumes 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually for space heating.
3Assumes additional setback of three degrees for 10 hours each weekday, saving 90 gigajoules of natural gas over the heating season, enough to heat one average sized home for a year.
4A natural gas fireplace turned on 13 hours per day during the heating season would use 100 gigajoules of natural gas per year. Savings achieved when 140 restaurants turn off fireplaces saving approximately, 14,000 gigajoules of natural gas, enough to provide space heating for 156 average size homes in a FortisBC service area.
5Assumes additional setback of three degrees for 10 hours each weekday, saving 90 gigajoules of natural gas over the heating season, enough to heat one average sized home for a year.