University of Michigan and Climate Savers Computing

Friday, January 29, 2010 |

By MaryBeth Stuenkel, IT Manager
University of Michigan

When University of Michigan (U-M) alum and Google cofounder Larry Page asked U-M to be a founding member of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) in 2007, the answer was a definite “Yes!”

What started as a two-year commitment to purchasing energy-efficient computers and deploying information on computer power management settings quickly expanded to electronic waste, server environments, printing and encouraging innovation in IT energy conservation. CSCI @ U-M achieved a culture change where the environment became part of the everyday work of providing information and technology services (see Program Overview figure).

We tackled a task of many dimensions. We wanted to raise awareness and change behavior as well as leverage our research, academic and buying power to influence change in the IT industry.

People power was critical to our success. We committed to collaborating with other campus sustainability initiatives, including the campus energy conservation initiative ( and student courses, for mutual support and engagement.

A kick-off event encouraged faculty, staff and students to volunteer on one of several project teams. Desktop Technologies (Workstations) and Server Rooms/Data Centers were the first to convene. Drawing on research and their own experiences, each team developed best practices to be used across campus to promote green IT behaviors. These best practices – including buying energy-efficient equipment, implementing available power save settings, reducing printing, recycling responsibly and providing IT services efficiently – were promoted on the project’s website (

Having developed best practices, we moved those behaviors into the campus IT culture. The Departmental Achievement team developed a checklist to help campus departments follow and track implementation of best practices and presented awards to top achievers. To date, 17 departments have been recognized for their Green IT Achievement (see Green IT Achievement figure).

CSCI @ U-M showed its commitment to the academic mission of the university by sponsoring a lecture series and soliciting corporate sponsors to donate funding and equipment to support research and student engagement.

Extending beyond campus, working with CSCI, another team developed the Power Down for the Planet challenge. Power Down for the Planet solicited pledges for eco-friendly computing from campuses around the country, and encouraged friendly competition. In Spring of 2009, the first challenge attracted 17,521 pledges from faculty, staff and students to adopt green computing practices, representing 19 universities.

While U-M already had a well-established electronic waste recycling effort, with community partners, U-M sponsored an e-Waste recycling event to help the surrounding community responsibly recycle old electronics. Over two years, more than 360 tons of e-waste was recovered, keeping 33 semi-trailer loads of toxic waste out of local landfills.

For more information about University of Michigan’s Climate Savers Computing Initiative, see our paper on Green IT Best Practices at the University of Michigan in the EDUCAUSE Quarterly.

Program Overview Figure

Green IT Achievement Figure

Climate Savers Rocks the Fujitsu Booth at EDUCAUSE

Monday, November 23, 2009 |
Slater Ohm
By Slater Ohm, Director Public Sector BD
Fujitsu America, Inc.

We just returned from beautiful Denver, Colo., which was the site for the 2009 EDUCAUSE Conference, an annual event focusing on the IT needs of higher education institutions and stakeholders. More than 3,800 IT leaders and professionals attended this year. Fujitsu was on the ground promoting the Climate Savers Computing Power Down for the Planet campaign on a 50-inch flat screen with a touch enabled tablet computer driving the campaign marketing message. Our tablet computer helped reinforce the message of conservation. We were able to demonstrate to attendees how tablet computers tend to lower the paper usages of their users by keeping documents, emails and PDF’s in a digital form, and helping reduce the amount of printing, use of ink and toner and garbage generation resulting in lower carbon emissions.

Power Down for the Planet

As we prepare for the 2010 Power Down for the Planet campaign, we were pleased that many attendees agreed to sign up and pledge to advance energy-efficient computing on their campuses. I think we surprised many by having this type of promotion at the EDUCAUSE conference. Most attendees were only expecting information and demonstrations on hardware and software solutions. We heard from several people that it was great to see a program like Power Down for the Planet represented at this year’s conference.

We can’t wait for next year’s event for the chance to showcase Climate Savers Computing at EDUCAUSE 2010 in Anaheim, Calif.

Placing Campus Efficiency Efforts in their Environmental Context

Friday, November 13, 2009 |

By Chris Stratton, Graduate Teaching Fellow – Environmental Studies
University of Oregon

How can we use technology to achieve the things we want and need while using less energy? Colleges and universities everywhere are working to answer this question by first measuring their own environmental impact through campus monitoring and periodic reports. In 2007, graduate students in the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies program, in collaboration with the university’s Office of Sustainability, drafted the Campus Sustainability Assessment.

The 2007 assessment identifies eleven campus sustainability indicators: Governance, Endowment Investment, Academics and Culture, Materials Management, Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy, Transportation, Water, Landscape and Buildings. This broad range of categories reminds us just how intertwined our behaviors are with our environment. But there are clearly opportunities within these categories to utilize technology to monitor and improve our practices.

Among the categories that readily lend themselves to quantification, the Energy and Greenhouse Gas indicators seem the most appropriate for technology-assisted assessment. On this front, the university has begun equipping campus buildings with real-time electricity meters that can be monitored remotely from a central location. This central real-time monitoring allows university administrators to recognize trends that have previously gone unnoticed. Hmm…why does this building use so much more energy than this other one, even though they have the same square footage? These investments in technology allow administrators to focus on the most effective campus renovation efforts, saving money and lessening environmental impacts in the process.

These electronic meters are also being linked to energy “kiosks” displayed prominently within the buildings themselves to provide users with real-time feedback on their energy consumption and CO2 emissions. These kiosks address environmental impacts by engaging with individual users’ behavior patterns. Over time, they have the potential to encourage energy conservation through improved information. My other alma mater, Oberlin College, has used similar energy kiosks to create efficiency competitions among campus dorms, with prizes going to the winners. In the first such competition, dorms reduced their energy use 32 percent on average. In addition, pre- and post-competition surveys indicated an increased “connectedness to nature” among participants.

We are currently in the process of incorporating the lessons from our own and others’ campus sustainability efforts to revise the University of Oregon Campus Sustainability Assessment. This version will include revised metrics and figures and compare UO’s campus to other campuses as well as to our best guess of what a truly sustainable level for each metric might be. We are also drawing on multiple independent campus sustainability frameworks; the most prominent among them include the Sustainable Endowments Green Report Card and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) framework.

Adopting an Integrated Approach to Solution Design
The architect Elliel Saarinen once said, “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context….” Whenever we are designing something – a building, a computer, a network, an energy system – to build it well we must consider its role within the larger context. If we do this at every level, if we keep considering our designs in their next larger context, we soon realize that the earth is the ultimate context for all our endeavors; it is the ultimate arbiter of whether our designs are a success or a failure. In order for our designs – or our adoption – of energy efficient computers to be successful from an environmental perspective, they must be considered within their larger economic context. (And that economy must itself be designed within its larger context).

Ecosystems are just that – systems. Nothing occurs in isolation – interdependence is the rule. So, yes, let’s adopt more energy efficient technology. Let’s use technology to get out information and change our environmental habits. But let’s also remember why we’re going to all this trouble. Let us always consider our efforts in their ultimate context, so that in the end we truly are making progress towards our real goal: a sustainable society.

Back to School: Students Guide the Way as Environmental Liaisons

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 |

By Deborah Morrison, Ph.D.
University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication

We see it often: 22-year-olds walking into first jobs and quickly showing their stripes as environmental liaisons. Many of them are asked to "think green" on projects, as they lead clients, brands, stakeholders and audiences to understand the realities of environmental change. Companies are on the lookout for expertise to guide them through how to make the business case for sustainability to increase market share, reduce risk, enhance brand, motivate the workforce and innovate. And just as new hires in these interesting times often know and use technology more intuitively than some of the old guard, so too is "green knowledge" often the bailiwick of the younger crowd. It's a millennial thing.

That poses an interesting question: If 2009 grads are often being viewed as quick "experts" if they've worked on green or climate-related issues, how will those freshmen entering college right now fare in the green job market when they graduate in four years? We see three key indicators that suggest green-friendly grads of 2013 will enter an exciting job arena.

First, consider simple economics. Federal stimulus funding will be delivering billions of dollars for green building and renovation practices in the next few years, and those who understand how to discuss, persuade and package these practices will own an important expertise. In fact, as our national priorities change from status quo thinking to an emphasis on sustainable thinking, what we're really witnessing is a social system shift. And where systems evolve at such a quick pace, the need for honest leaders and green brand advocates will be notable.

Second, the emergence of social media as a vital part of the media landscape lives parallel to the sustainability movement. Brand communication, issue clarification, even environmental activism, is often fueled by digital media that connects people and ideas quickly, and the next few years will show a marked increase in interdisciplinary approaches to the field (think green chemistry meets urban planning, as example).

Forward-thinking university programs are finding ways to connect sustainability and technology as key business management areas, and, as a result, course offerings in these areas are found in schools dotting the country, such as at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Third, discussions concerning environmental justice grow more important in a today’s political climate. During the next few years of the Obama administration, policymakers will tackle a host of environmental issues, connecting those issues to health, the economy and social justice. Doing the right thing for the environment — no matter your expertise or profession — will continue to flourish as part of our culture. A recent global survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that 88 percent of the millennial generation expects their employer to align with their corporate social responsibility (CSR) values. Not only will environmental issues impact the national landscape, they will also be embedded within the ideologies of future graduates.

Students looking for vibrant careers that have a measurable positive effect on the world would do well to carve an expertise in this area, shaping skills as they do work worth believing in. Students who pledge to power down their computers show support for climate action. Climate Savers Computing Initiative will make its second foray into the world of higher education with Power Down for the Planet II. The goal of this project is to engage colleges and universities from around the world regarding IT power management. Recruitment begins in October, so stay tuned for updates or visit for information about last year’s challenges.

Deborah Morrison is a Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising in the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon.

Energy Efficiency for University Students

Thursday, July 23, 2009 |
By John Leu
Student, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Green is en vogue right now. Everyone from banks to blue chips, congress to car companies is talking about green efforts. Even energy giants are promising more sustainable solutions.

On university campuses, strong environmental awareness has been in fashion for decades, and many of the breakthrough innovations necessary for a low carbon future have come from work done by entrepreneurial and eco-minded students.

One green topic that is being heavily discussed on both college campuses and in the corporate world is energy efficiency. Not the wear-a-sweater or drive-a-clunker mindset of the late 70's, but a sleeker, more hip lifestyle that brands an individual's small carbon footprint.

Bicycles are trendy again, with an entire culture and design style being embraced by the community. Awareness of the carbon impact food choices have is starting to shape diets, both in type and amount. Low-power laptops are now competing with netbooks for space on student's desks. And lightweight smart phones are routinely used for accessing the Web. No question, “green parties” (both political and social) are evident on campus and the demand for more sustainable infrastructure is on the rise.

Interesting and rewarding jobs is another draw for students toward energy efficiency. More than a lifestyle it can become a career. Economics majors have interesting opportunities in the much-needed financing for the growing green-tech sector. Engineers have courses specifically focused on energy efficiency. Operations has always been focused on doing more using less. Lectures, symposiums and workshops are taking place almost daily outlining opportunities for the application of existing solutions as well as a need for better, smarter approaches.

There is also a lot of discourse about the “smart grid” which intends to use information and controls more effectively to reduce electricity use while improving our lifestyle. Utilities, technology companies, universities and small startups are all vying for the development of the necessary innovative approaches that will deliver on the promise of the smart grid.

The stimulus package may also help those who have just graduated or will graduate in the near future. The White House just announced that $346 million from the ARRA will be focused on energy efficiency technology development and projects. These funds will likely span across all sectors and even help new and existing homes become more efficient.

The future of energy efficiency looks bright; we'll continue to make it even brighter while using less to do so.

Power Down for the Planet Video Challenge Winners

Monday, May 4, 2009 |
We are excited to announce the winning entries for the Power Down for the Planet Video Challenge. The contest was competitive with many great submissions that highlighted the Climate Savers Computing mission.

The Grand Prize was won by team ArcaneMind. The team wins $5,000 and one HP TouchSmart tx2z laptop for each team member.

The Grand Student Prize was submitted by team Tiger P.R.I.D.E. Connection from Jackson State University. The team wins $5,000 and each team member receives one 2009 Specialized Globe Vienna Deluxe 1 bike powered by Specialized and one license for Microsoft Expression Studio.

We thank everyone who participated in the Power Down for the Planet Video Challenge. All submissions are available to view at the Power Down for the Planet YouTube Group page. Below is a Playlist that includes the winning entries as well as those that received honorable mention:

The Power Down for the Planet Video Challenge was a related competition under the Power Down for the Planet Challenge that brought eco-conscious students and campus communities together in a movement to reduce the energy consumption of computers. Students, staff and faculty at participating universities joined the challenge by pledging their support to adopt green computing practices.

The University of Maine at Farmington won the first Power Down for the Planet Challenge with more than 24 percent of its campus community pledging to commit to sustainable computing practices. The University of Iowa also received honorable mention for garnering the highest number of campus-wide pledges with 6,013. Additional information about the winners of the Power Down for the Planet Challenge here.

Universities Power Down, Videos Fire Up

Friday, March 13, 2009 |
There are two basic facts that keep the Climate Savers Computing team marching forward each day: The average desktop PC in use today wastes nearly half the power it pulls from the wall – and there are currently over 1 billion PCs in deployment globally and 2.25 billion expected by 2015.

These realities have us focusing on the world of higher education through April as we challenge students, faculty and staff across the globe to Power Down for the Planet.

Colleges and universities around the world have been asked to make a dent in climate impact by powering down campus computers. In collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program we are educating and engaging college students on a large scale about their computer power consumption and how that affects the environment.

Why the focus on this population? College students in the U.S. alone can collectively make a one million-ton reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by better managing their computers.

Who has stepped up for the challenge to date? Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of California at San Diego, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Maine, University of Maryland and California State University, Chico.

One winning university will be selected based on the highest percentage of on-campus staff, student and faculty pledges toward use of computer power management tools.

But, in addition to a winning university (and a winning planet) we’ll have some additional winners – provided they can tell a big story on the small screen.

Our Power Down for the Planet video contest challenges participants to develop original and creative videos that educate, entertain, and/or inform others about the importance of energy efficient computing to the global environment.

Winners will be on the receiving end of cold, hard cash, as well as up to five 2009 Globe Vienna 1 bikes powered by Specialized, HP TouchSmart tx2z laptops and Microsoft Expression Studio software. Submissions are open until April 17.