By Reem Deeb
As human beings, there are many things that we take for granted. Things that we don’t think much about. Things that we assume that no matter what, they will always be there for us. We get up in the morning, go about our daily businesses and come back at the end of the day, wrap the day and go to sleep just to wake up and start all over again. We live days, weeks, months and even years without paying attention for these things that we take for granted, thinks like the air we breathe, the environment around us and the energy we consume to mention a few.
If we took time to think carefully about these things, we may realize how important they are and how much we should pay attention to make sure that we interact with them responsibly. As the population around the world increases, the need for more careful use of the available limited resources also increases.
A good example of that increasing need of responsible use of our limited resources, is our use of energy. Energy use is important in almost all aspects of our lives. We use energy to preserve and prepare the foods we eat; we use energy to light our personal and work spaces; we use energy to power or charge our many electronic devises; we use energy to clean our abodes and now that summer is upon us, we use energy to cool our homes. With these and many more energy needs, have you ever asked yourself how much energy do you use every single day?
Perhaps that may not be something you can easily find out, even though it is definitely a lot. But you can also ask yourself another question as to whether you are using it responsibly. Do you switch off the lights when you exit the room? Do you unplug or switch off your microwave after heating up the things you heat? Do you turn off the TV when you are not watching? Do you turn off your computer when you are done using it? What about air condition in your room or house, does it run all day long, even when you are not there, or do you remember to turn it off or at least reduce it when you are leaving?
American University of Sharjah has been on the forefront in helping create a more sustainable world. Towards this end, the university is creating a variety of initiatives to help the AUS community members be more aware of what they can do as individuals and as a community to help reduce energy use, conserve water and other sustainable initiatives. The university is also pursuing ISO14001, an international environmental certification to recognize and endorse the environmental management system and the sustainability progress the university has achieved so far.
To help raise awareness on personal energy use, American University of Sharjah (AUS) Sustainability Division, the university division assigned to oversee AUS sustainability efforts, in collaboration with the AUS Residential Life Department held an energy reduction competition in the university’s dorms over the month of April 2016. The month was designated as an AUS Energy Awareness Month to help raise awareness among students on personal energy consumption and to improve energy efficiency in all AUS dormitories.
The campaign focused on behavioral change requirements to help us become more responsible in the way we consume energy every day and reduce our carbon footprint. An awareness campaign included a weekly email sent out to students to give residents helpful tips on how to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints. Reminders to do little things that would make a difference in our energy use. Reminders that each and every one of us has a role to play to make our world a better place. The energy-saving reminders included tips like:
“Turn off the Water heater”
“Set your Air Conditioning at 25 degrees”
“Unplug all equipment -computers/monitors/speakers/televisions/fans/mobile phone chargers and power supplies for laptops”
“Unplug all kitchen equipment including kettles/coffee machines/microwaves/toasters etc.”
“Turn off the lights!”
The initiative aimed to shed light on the fact that even though the UAE has one of the highest carbon footprint per capita, the AUS community can become responsible citizens of the country, and make an impact in energy conservation. In this competition the dorms’ residents were able to do their share to reduce the carbon emissions resulting from energy consumption.
Over 2,000 AUS students live on-campus and enjoy being close to the academic buildings, library, food court and Sports Complex. To host these students, the AUS Residential Halls consist of 13 dormitories, eight men's dormitories AB, CD, EF, GH, IJ, KL, MN and PQ and five women's dormitory buildings AB, CD, EF, GH and I. The competition paired dormitories which had similar designs and had almost similar occupancy in order to make a competition fair. The dorms were paired as follows:
AB vs CD vs EF vs GH vs I
- AB vs IJ
- GH vs KL
- CD+EF vs MN+PQ
Students enjoyed implementing simple changes in their daily routines to help achieve significant energy savings and noticeable reduction of their carbon footprints. By the end of April the sustainability division calculated the energy consumption of each dorm according to the meter readings and generated the KWH consumption per capita. And the results were good making the Energy Awareness Month campaign a success. Overall, the energy use in the AUS residential halls reduced by 8% during the month of April compared to March.
The dorms that performed exceptionally well received certificates that were hanged in their entrances in recognition to their conservation efforts. In addition to that, students residing in the AUS Residential Halls received sustainable gifts such as reusable bags and bottles, sustainable pens and notepads etc., to remind them to continue being conscious about energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprints.
American University of Sharjah will continue to pursue a variety of energy reduction initiatives and will continue to play a key role in promoting and creating a more sustainable future for the university, the community around the university and the world at large.
Reem Deeb is the Sustainability Administrator at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah