Illini Lights Out increases sustainability awareness


Cindy Om

Source: Illini Lights Out

By YooJin Son, Contributing Writer

The campus sustainability program, Illini Lights Out, has saved the University over $1,000 in electricity bills since August by turning off 7,871 light bulbs around campus, and it is continuing to expand.

“That’s real money that is getting invested elsewhere because students are taking a little bit of their time to flip some switches,” said Micah Kenfield, sustainability programs coordinator for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at the University.

ILO received a grant of $10,000 in April from the Student Sustainability Committee to expand its program, to spread awareness for the program and to let students know they can make a difference to the environment.

Claire Kredens, senior in LAS and campus sustainability intern overseeing the ILO program, said she is focused on developing the program’s brand recognition and keeping the program’s momentum going.

“We are responsible for sustainability efforts, and if people start turning off lights, maybe they’ll start paying more attention to other things, too,” Kredens said.

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With the grant, ILO has created a new logo, T-shirts for volunteers, stickers and other supplies to familiarize students with the program.

Molly Gates, senior in Media, works with ILO and iSEE as a communications intern. Gates said she is focusing on building the bridge between complex scientific information and the average person, and on bringing students to the program through ILO’s Facebook page and other forms of visual media.

ILO is also working to keep professors and building managers diligent when it comes to turning off unused lights.

“A lot of people, a lot of the faculty we run into, they think it’s someone else’s job at the end of the day to turn them off,” Kredens said. “It’s a misconception. If it’s your office or your classroom, it is your responsibility to turn them off.”

ILO is hoping to work with faculty and staff to put up ‘Turn It Out” signs on the light switches and to get motion detecting lights that turn off automatically in buildings around campus sooner.

With at least 50 volunteers gathering each month, ILO is working to create a culture of collective action to show students that it is not difficult to be sustainable. Over the past two years, ILO has tripled in volunteer attendance.

“I would personally call it the University of Illinois’ first real sustainability tradition,” Kenfield said. “Seeing the level of excitement that students across campus have for sustainability, even something as simple as turning out lights, it’s really inspiring.”

Kenfield encourages all students to take a few nights a month to participate in the program and go to buildings around the Main Quad and turn off as many unused lights as possible. Increased participation would help ILO step closer to its ultimate goal of campus sustainability by default, he said.

Sanaya Dukandar, senior in LAS and ILO volunteer, has seen an increase in the number of volunteers due to social media advertisements.

“It’s just one hour and you make such a big difference,” Dukandar said. “The more people that do the small changes, the bigger the impact.”

With continuous efforts to raise awareness for ILO, Kredens hopes to see students gain sustainable habits and sustainability grow as a larger active conversation on campus.

“It’s a really easy thing that everyone can do. You don’t change your diet, you change your habits,” Kredens said. “Just flick a switch off.”

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