• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.


Modest proposal #4 - Ban the box

Tis Spring, and an old(er) man’s fancy turns to thoughts of ... possible policy changes for the coming academic year.

April 10, 2008

Tis Spring, and an old(er) man’s fancy turns to thoughts of ... possible policy changes for the coming academic year.

For the average American household, refrigerator(s) account for about 14% of annual electricity used. Compared to residence hall rooms, houses use a greater share of electricity for heat, hot water, air conditioning, etc., so in dorm rooms the percentage is likely greater. And mini-sized fridges are notoriously inefficient. Even the new EnergyStar rated ones use about 300 kWh per year. If the average dorm room creates 666 kg of CO2-equivalent emissions per year (per Colorado State U), a little EnergyStar fridge accounts for almost 20% of that.

Now, I understand the convenience factor involved in having a fridge in your dorm room. You can keep things cold, like ... the milk you pour over your morning bowl of breakfast cereal (yeah, that's it!). And if it's in your room, you don't have to worry about people on your floor helping themselves to your, um, milk.

But all those little fridges create far more refrigerating capacity than is really being utilized, consume far more electricity than would a smaller number of shared, centrally located, larger and more efficient refrigerators, and thereby cause far more in the way of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to consider banning refrigerators from individual dorm rooms, and setting size/energy standards for shared fridges in suites/apartments.

I say "consider", because such a proposal is sure to start a firestorm at Greenback U. One of our auxiliary operations rents Microfridges to students at annual rates which make even commercial rent-to-own prices look modest. Lots of other schools have similar rental operations and, in fact, Greenback's pricing puts it pretty much in the middle of the pack. At the end of the year, fridge rental adds a nice chunk of change to the Greenback bottom line -- a misleadingly attractive chunk of change, as the additional electricity used never gets charged against the rental income generated.

Banning dorm room refrigerators won't be easy, but it's a step which is clearly required and is simple to explain. A 20% (or even 10-15%) savings in total dorm room electrical usage is significant. It's a battle worth fighting.

Has your school already done this? Do you rent out refrigerators? Microwaves? Other appliances?


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