On a day in late March, I was filming a short film in the SUB for extra credit in my BIOB260 class. As I walked down a hallway on the first floor, I popped my head into each room. It was 9 a.m. on a Saturday, the sun was out, and the building was empty. Yet every single room had all of its lights turned on.

While crossing each room to flip the switch, I was troubled wondering exactly how many offices, classrooms, and conference rooms at MSU stand completely empty and fully lit every day. The Office of Sustainability’s program initiatives show that MSU has undertaken numerous energy efficiency projects that both reduce our school’s environmental footprint and save money. However, MSU has not yet reached its goals for energy efficiency, and students and the administration must work together to achieve this objective. 


As a signatory to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), MSU has made an institutional commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from campus operations and ultimately achieve a carbon-neutral footprint. The initial step in achieving this goal was to complete a comprehensive GHG emissions inventory. The inventory determined that the total emissions for the 2009 reporting period were 77, 375 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent. 57 percent of our emissions were associated with purchased electricity, mostly lighting, ventilation and heating. This is higher than the average emissions value when compared to many ACUPCC institutions in the GHG inventories.

MSU does have several initiatives for energy conservation in its buildings. Norm Asbjornson Hall is the eighth building on the MSU campus that is LEED-certified, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.LEED is one of the most popular green building certification programs worldwide.

However, there are problems with these energy initiatives. Rendezvous Dining Hall closes every day at 7 p.m., but the lights stay on throughout the night. The only people entering these buildings late at night are the janitorial staff. I do not think it is necessary to leave all the lights on for this purpose. Norm Asbjornson Hall uses motion-activated lights that turn on when someone enters the room and turn off automatically when the environment is not in use. This initiative should be implemented across the campus since it is both convenient and energy-efficient. 

Our collective actions on our campus do not exist in a vacuum. Global climate change is impacting the planet in ways never before experienced in human history. So, Bobcats, I’m asking you to start turning off lights, computers, projectors and any other electronics when you leave any room on campus or elsewhere! Talk to your friends and classmates, share this article, and convince those around you to do the same. Small actions on your behalf will collectively have a huge impact on the carbon footprint of our campus and will advocate for the responsible use of your tuition money. 

After all, why should our carelessness have a global impact? Who is benefiting from brightly-lit, empty classrooms? Climate action cannot take place if we all continue to wait for the government, large corporations or the university to “do something about it.” It’s time for all of us to start moving. Let’s start with the first step: Flip a switch on your way out the door.

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