Students keen to "switch off"

28 November 2007

The call to "switch off" was enthusiastically taken up by students during a University-run trial in August 2007. Students were encouraged to switch off computers, not their brains, with the aim of reducing the University’s electricity and paper use. Prompts were posted next to computers in the Kate Edger Information Commons (KEIC) and in selected Faculty of Engineering computer labs. The six-week trial encouraged students to turn off monitors when they finish using them. In the Engineering computer labs, students were also asked to print double-sided. About 450 computers in the two buildings were used in the trial.

The initiative was motivated by post-graduate student Lucy Hawcroft, who designed the trial as part of her environmental psychology studies. Lucy also received input from the University’s Environmental Coordinator Dr Lesley Stone, and hopes to publish the results at a later date.

During the trial, 34 percent more computer monitors were turned off, and in the Engineering computer labs, 16 percent less single-sided paper was printed.

Assistant University Librarian (Information Commons) Hester Mountifield said the trial turned out to be a success.

"I was initially cautious because the computers are under such heavy use and students need uninterrupted access. However, I was pleased to see the trial did not interfere with the smooth running of the Information Commons. In fact, we received positive feedback from several students."

The University's Environmental Coordinator Dr Lesley Stone said students continued to switch off monitors after the signs were taken down, demonstrating a change in behaviour. As a result, signs will probably be placed periodically in computer labs rather than permanently.

"Every piece of equipment that can be turned off when not in use reduces our carbon footprint," Dr Stone says.