Hiram College

Last semester, we surveyed the campus, asking if people around campus if they thought they used more or less electricity than the average. More than half said they were below average.

Of course, the question was problematic. An average is only relative, and so your sense of where you fall in the mix depends on the comparison being made. Hiram students probably use far less electricity than, say, a campus dedicated to computer science or electrical engineering, but much more than a students did a decades ago.  According to the World Bank, our per capita electricity consumption in the United States has tripled since the 1960’s.

We seem to be hungry for more and more power so I decided to go more in depth like the book Hungry Planet where the authors traveled the world to photograph how people ate around the world.  In a similar way, I travelled the campus to photograph and measure how much energy students from different years and majors use. I roughly calculated the active energy consumption for all of their electronics using. The students surveyed answered questions about how often they use their electronics. I used a Kill-a-watt meter to measure how many watts the devices need. These devices, which are available for use at the TREE house, are plugged into a wall outlet and measures how much energy your electronic devices consumes. I used the Kill-a-watt meter to calculate energy consumption used by the students in this short study. These figures only includes people are actively using the electronic, not the time that the device is using energy so the numbers calculated only represent how much energy they consume through their electronics if they turned off, unplugged, and removed the batteries whenever they were not in us. Because people do not often do this, the watts consumed are only a small fraction of the energy consumed by these students. Here is what I found.

Henry, 67watts/day

Kevin, 225 watts/day

Sparky, 114 watts/day

James, 310 watts/day

Nipps, 211 watts/day

Dana, 172 watts/day

The average active energy consumption of the surveyed students was 183 watts/day.  It may not seem like much, but this does not include the energy used to light or heat their dorm rooms, to hall food across country to the dining hall, or the energy their electronics eat up when they aren’t using them so although this statistic is interesting, it only represents a small fraction of what Americans use on a daily basis. In fact, the average suburban home uses 45 kwh/day.

Our electronics are an important part of our lives.  While most of the students surveyed saw them as replicable tools, others were sentimental towards their electronics. One responder even admitted an utter dependence upon the devices in our lives. When it comes to energy conservation with electronics, it can be difficult. As a college, we cannot get around checking e-mails or writing essays; however, this does not mean that it is impossible to reduce our electricity consumption (Thomas 2006).

All of these students’ electronics consume more energy when they are not being used than when they are. Your TV, laptop, and cell phone all use electricity when they are not in use. For example, if you were to leave your television plugged in for a week without using it, you would consume approximately 1,580 watts of electricity—that’s enough energy to watch all of the Harry Potter movies! (For muggles, that’s over 19 hours of wizardry.) By unplugging gadgets that we are not using them, you can conserve energy without impacting your lifestyle. It can, however, save you money. By simply turning off your fan every night before you go to bed, you can save $35 a year (Bankrate 2010). Of course, it may be time to sit down and recognize that all night Netflix marathons are not healthy for us or the planet, but small steps such as unplug electronics when you are not using them or installing automatic turnoff devices can reduced your energy consumption.