BY ANGELA CUNEO
How many people does it take to change a light bulb?
This common question has been asked countless times; however, with the third annual Lightbulb Exchange Program last week and this week at the University of Mary Washington, the question isn’t whether or not the light bulb has been changed, it is whether or not it has been exchanged.
For the past three years, the UMW Ecology Club, the Sustainability Department and Residence Life have been co-sponsoring a program in which students, faculty and staff are able to exchange their incandescent light blubs for energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) free of charge.
“Our goal as a club is energy saving and the reduction in harmful pollutants,” Elisa Walker, senior member of the Ecology Club and the student in charge of this year’s Lightbulb Exchange, said.
CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they have great environmental impacts because less energy used on lighting means less harmful emissions from power plants producing electricity, Walker said. CFLs also last seven to 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs.
“The program is open to all students, but this year the club is targeting the freshman class,” Walker said.
As opposed to previous years, the exchange locations for this year are in all freshman dorms on-campus, as well as in the Eagle’s Nest and Seacobeck. Since the incoming freshman class has never had the opportunity to exchange their light bulbs, the club believes that these locations will be most effective.
“Those upperclassmen who exchanged light bulbs three years ago should still have them,” Walker said. “Those same bulbs are still in use, so the savings in emissions keeps building up.”
On top of the energy-saving potential, the program is also beneficial because it helps UMW to save money, Walker said.
According to a flyer handed out by the Ecology Club to students, faculty and staff after they have exchanged their light bulbs, “the less energy we use on light bulbs, the less money UMW pays for electricity. That means lower tuitions and better use of our money.”
After the first year of the program, which was during the 2007-2008 school year, roughly 2,000 light bulbs had been exchanged at UMW.
“That was a lot,” Walker said.
Data from last year has been lost, but Walker estimated that around 500 to 600 bulbs were exchanged last year.
Walker said the program has about 350 light bulbs for this year. The program aims to exchange all of them and hopefully get more if necessary. So far, about 200 light bulbs have been exchanged.
Joni Wilson, director of landscape and grounds, is in charge of purchasing the CFLs. The funding for the program comes from the university.
Ecology Club members feel that the Lightbulb Exchange Program is making a difference.
“It’s the simplest way to reduce your carbon footprint,” junior Desiree DeHaven said. “It’s so easy. There is nothing to say ‘no’ to.”
Although the Lightbulb Exchange has been the Ecology Club’s most influential program, Walker hopes that the club’s impact does not end there.
“What the Eco Club wants to emphasize is that exchanging a light bulb is a good first step, but it’s not the only thing,” Walker said.
UMW, in cooperation with NORESCO, an energy services company, has worked to develop the “Three Behaviors” campaign, which is a list of initiatives to help UMW participate in “going green.”
The first of these steps is the establishment of the President’s Council on Sustainability, a group of students, staff and faculty who advise the university on how to act on their institutional commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.
The second is UMW’s participation in an event called Recyclemania, a 10-week-long recycling contest.
The third step is to encourage students to participate in three energy saving behaviors recommended by NORESCO–to take shorter showers, to turn off fans and air conditioning units when not in the room and to turn off computers when not in use.
Ehren Guzman, a junior member of the Ecology Club, hopes that when the Lightbulb Exchange Program continues next year, the club could think about adding different sizes of light bulbs to exchange.
“For example people come with flood lights, and we can’t help them,” Guzman said. “They won’t fit in the sockets.”
Despite small changes, most are satisfied with the program’s progress.
“I think it’s been a real positive change,” Chris Porter, director of Residence Life said. “The Ecology Club, the Residence Life staff and our partners at Noresco have worked very hard to get the word out about conserving energy and reducing greenhouse gasses. The Lightbulb Exchange is one part of a larger effort to help people be more cognizant of their energy use.”
The Lightbulb Exchange will continue this week and next week. The exchange will take place today from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Apartments Clubhouse, Sunday, Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Seacobeck and Tuesday, Feb. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Jefferson Hall and Russell Hall.