While They Meet in Copenhagen… Sarah Lawrence College Announces Results of Living Sustainably

As leaders deliberate at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Sarah Lawrence College is pleased to announce the results of an analysis of its first energy efficient residence hall: a ninety-one percent savings in energy from the previous year and a sixty-eight percent cost savings.* The impressive reduction in energy use and carbon emissions is attributed to the energy efficient retrofitting of a residence hall and the sustainable practices used by the students.

Two years ago a group of Sarah Lawrence students petitioned the administration for a residence that was environmentally sound. With a number of private homes converted to residence halls as part of the College’s housing stock, an agreement was reached that included the retrofitting of one of these houses and a pact that the residents would live as sustainably as their surroundings would allow.

What was “Warren House” was renamed “Warren Green” and in early September of 2008, thirteen students moved into the house that was now well insulated, displayed solar panels on the roof for producing hot water, retrofitted to include a forced air system tempered by high efficiency electric heat pumps for heating and cooling, all new low-water devices, a rain catchment system for watering the newly dug vegetable garden, and a kitchen boasting the most energy efficient appliances manufactured. All at a cost just under $150,000

For their part, the students agreed to share the shopping and cooking to minimize trips to the market and use of energy to produce their food, hung up their laundry to dry whenever possible, insured that all devices were unplugged when not in use, and put limits on themselves for water use.

“The students’ sustainable practices were a major factor in the energy savings realized,” said Micheal Rengers, Vice President of Operations, who oversaw the conversion of the house and is in regular contact with the students. “Despite the fact that we converted to electric heat, the electricity used in 08-09 was less than the electricity used the previous year when the house was heated by gas,” he said. Rengers attributes that drop in good part to the elimination of mini refrigerators. “Mini fridges are a huge drain on electricity,” he said, “and they are unfortunately very prevalent on college campuses.”

The residents of Warren Green, now in its second year, are selected by a sub-committee of the College-wide sustainability committee. With many more students wishing to live together sustainably than Warren Green can accommodate, members of the committee are investigating the possibility of converting a second house.