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Undergraduate sustainability council installs new “green” energy devices on campus

DU’s “green” energy initiative just got cooler.

The University installed “eCubes” in freezers and coolers around campus during winter break. The devices, which are wax cubes that affix to a refrigerator’s thermostat, are designed to decrease the power required to keep food cold, according to Tom McGee, DU’s energy engineer.

Thermostats on commercial refrigerators measure the internal temperature of the air inside the unit rather than the temperature of food items. Since air temperature fluctuates as doors open and close, the refrigerator’s cooling unit turns on frequently, which uses more energy than is necessary to keep food cold.

The eCube acts as a food item and tricks the refrigerator into measuring the temperature from the cube rather than the air. As a result, refrigerators use less energy and food is kept fresh longer.

The DU Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Undergraduate Sustainability Committee financed the new energy conservation initiative, which cost about $10,300. The project should pay for itself in less than 23 months, says Jordan Loyd, chair of the Undergraduate Sustainability Committee.

According to Tim Otto, a consultant advising the effort, the eCube will save DU more than 50,000 kilowatt-hours and approximately $4,000 per year. The USG brought in Otto to share ideas about how the University could reduce its impact on the environment. After hearing his ideas about lighting, water, hand driers and eCubes, the USG and the Sustainability Committee decided to work with Otto’s company — Green Energy Solutions — to install the eCubes due to their high efficiency and low cost.

“I think it’s important to DU because it shows the students that we’re doing something tangible,” says Loyd. “Rather than discussing and promoting water saving practices — which we do and is important — USG and sustainability wanted to take a more tangible approach. We also thought it was important because this is a device that everyone will experience the benefits from — it’s in every large-scale refrigerator on campus, so if you eat on campus, you’ve been affected.” 

Loyd’s committee promotes student involvement in the University’s sustainability initiatives and plans to install hand driers, hydration stations, low-flow shower heads and institute an outdoor recycling program before the end of the year, Loyd says. The committee just finished a project to bring composting to all dining areas on campus and is working with the Rocky Mountain Sustainability Summit to plan events for Earth Day and Earth Month.

Visit the eCube website for more information.

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