Energy consumption is a global issue, and on an innovative college campus like the University of Washington, students need to be exposed to alternative forms of energy in order to be the most successful of tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers. Conscious students are willing to alter their behaviors to reduce their energy consumption, but for the average individual, libraries and building don’t make it easy to be mindful of energy consuming behaviors. EcoReps, our student group, is working to implement a form of sustainable energy to benefit students by providing an educational and inspirational hub, along with adding a practical and health beneficial structure to campus. Our innovative solution to the issue of energy consumption is to install a number of solar charging tables on campus. Solar charging tables allow people to be outdoors, and to see the source of the energy they are utilizing. By seeing the source of power first hand, and reading signage posted at the tables, we hope to change student’s mindsets and to increase awareness and mindfulness of energy consumption, leading to behavioral changes across campus.
In addition to the physical and technical use of the tables, the goal of this project is to expose the University to solar power. Many people have heard of solar power but most likely associate it with large panels out in fields or on the top of buildings. By giving students the opportunity to interact with solar power in a convenient and useful way, we hope to change student behaviors for the better as well as increase solar power installations across campus.
ConnecTable™ solar charging tables have the ability to charge 75-150 devices a day, and store four days’ worth of charge. They can also function in overcast weather, a common occurrence in Seattle. The tables are light enough to be moved with a forklift and do not require grounding, so their location can be changed if necessary. The locations of these tables will target areas of high traffic and visibility. We picture a lawn full of students experiencing solar power first hand. Exposure to solar energy is an important step in increasing education, awareness and acceptance. One potential location is the Husky Union Building lawn, a central location on campus, where many students will have daily access to the tables.
The EcoReps team has started to work with the grounds and management team on campus to determine where placement of these tables is feasible. Our proposal included nine locations, of which we hoped to have one or two approved. We left the meeting pleased with approval for six out of the nine locations. With support from the Sustainability office and the Architects on campus we see great potential to expand the number of locations to every corner of campus.
The basis of EcoReps, a student organization, is to elicit behavioral changes on campus by project development. The University of Washington deeply values sustainability and is mindful of the impact our campus has on the environment. With many initiatives and projects on campus, little by little, we have worked to expose students to a way of living that can reduce waste, improve energy conservation, and educate those in the surrounding community. We hope that the presence of solar tables on campus will work to expose, educate, and change behaviors.