Students from the departments of Urban Planning and Design and Environmental Science at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University are aiming to enhance the University’s green credentials by saving energy and reducing emissions.

They have kick-started a campaign to ‘green’ the XJTLU campus by coming up with a number of exciting environmental initiatives.

Their activity is part of a Year Three module on environmental sustainability and they have shared information about their initiatives in the University’s computer rooms, canteens, library, teaching buildings and convenience stores, and on dustbins.

Energy saving can be ‘fun’

Environmental science student Yuxiang Ren wanted to make energy saving interesting so he designed a simple game that encourages people to take the stairs instead of the lift by challenging them to climb 20,000 floors in total together.

Participants press a numbered button on a counter that corresponds to the floor they are going to via the stairs. They can submit pictures of themselves after having climbed to their chosen floor to win prizes, while the number of floors they have climbed is added to an accumulated total of everyone’s effort

“The game encourages lots of people to join together to accomplish a task,” he said. “People participating in the activity want to see the feedback and creating a sense of group participation helps mobilise others to be involved.”

The game aims to encourage more people to use the stairs and is accompanied by a poster explaining the amount of energy one elevator uses within an hour to further encourage people to take the stairs. The energy used by an elevator in an hour could power a MacBook Pro for 372 days or a television for 158 days.

The game was initially set up in the University’s Foundation Building, where it took just one week to reach its 20,000-floor target thanks to its high footfall and enthusiastic students. It has now moved to the University Library where it continues to encourage people to take the stairs.

“Obviously there are some people who just press the button for fun without taking the stairs,” said Yuxiang. “However, it shows the game is fun and can attract people’s attention.”

Energy saving can be ‘easy’

After observing that nearly 40 percent of people left the University’s computer rooms without shutting machines down, urban planning student Yu Tian decided to come up with a campaign to address the issue.

Her project aimed to encourage students to develop the habit of putting computers into sleep mode once they had finished in order to reduce energy consumption.

“The Dell 380 computer that we usually use at the University uses 50 watts of energy an hour when switched on, in comparison to 1.27 watts per hour in sleep mode,” she said.

In order to better encourage people to form the habit she drew on examples of similar campaigns as well as behavioral psychology research. She also offered a prize incentive to encourage students to participate.

“Through the simple act of putting the computers in one computer room into sleep mode, you can save enough energy for 77 families for a year,” she said in a message to students.

Energy saving can be ‘inspiring’

The Engineering Building at XJTLU has been filled with the sound of staff and students playing music as they climbed the stairs.

The fun project is the work of urban planning student Zhou Hang who installed 13 ‘music steps’ in the building to encourage people to use the stairs.

He was inspired by a similar energy-saving project by car manufacturer Volkswagen and decided to create a version on campus.

After learning that a system similar to the one used by Volkswagen would cost RMB 100,000 to make, he and his classmates decided they could make it for cheaper.

He worked out plans for the material, circuits and programming, as well as for the system’s construction, operation and maintenance. He even factored in fire prevention into his budget.

He installed the system with friends over three nights in November, process which was more difficult than they had anticipated but became a reality once the first step was installed.

“The moment that the first level of signal lights turned on was the most exciting,” he said.

Zhou is pleased with his system – which cost RMB 720 in total – and its ability to inspire people to take the stairs and make beautiful music.

“The concept of energy reduction is not abstract,” he said. “Let’s together make the vision a reality!”

Energy saving can even benefit stray cats

Linxuan Shi decided to combine her love of cats with her desire to encourage increased waste classification and recycling on campus.

She had noticed that there were a lot of stray cats living around the University’s Engineering Building and that many animal lovers were feeding them with their own food.

She decided to start with cat lovers to encourage garbage classification in exchange for cat food.

“Once you’ve sorted your garbage into recyclable and non-recyclable items, you can take a small amount of cat food that is safer and healthier for the cats than human food,” she explained of her system.

And at the same time animal lovers are encouraged to sort their garbage so that they can better help their furry friends.

Linxuan’s own cat has become the mascot for her project, encouraging more participants become interested in her project. Her cat has even become a mini celebrity!

Funding for the students' projects came from XJTLU's Teaching Development Fund.

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