'Friday Night Lights Out' encourages UNH students to save energy on the weekends

By KERRY FELTNER
On April 5, 2012

"Friday Night Lights" may conjure up images of football in Texas thanks to the popular TV show, however UNH has its own spin on the phrase thanks to students Ben Trolio and Vincent Lyon.

Trolio and Lyon have co-founded an initiative to save energy by turning off lights in administrative buildings around campus every Friday evening.

"This initiative is part of the Clean It Up Campaign run by UNH CAN," Trolio said. "UNH Climate Action Network is a group of students from various student organizations committed to a rapid and responsible transition away from fossil fuels at the campus level. The goal of our Clean It Up campaign is to get the University of New Hampshire to 100 percent clean electricity by 2020."

To date, the initiative has saved UNH approximately $200 per weekend. Students meet in MUB 139 and break into groups to cover every building.

For Lyon, as co-president of the UNH Energy Club and a member of the Climate Action Network (CAN), saving energy is a personal goal.

"Sixty-eight percent of U.S. electrical energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) which are harmful to extract (mountaintop removal, fracking, spills), harmful to transport (trucking, pipelines, tankers), and harmful to burn," Lyon said in an email. "Also, they are limited resources which will eventually become too expensive to extract. Overall, there is nothing sustainable about the way things are done now, so we need to reduce waste as much as possible while implementing a more sustainable solution."

Student support for the initiative has varied.

"I think it fluctuates a lot," Lyon said. "We had a lot of media coverage at one of our last events and turnout was fantastic, but even last Friday only one person did the entire campus alone. It's tough to keep people excited."

"I believe that students care due to the positive feedback we have gotten so far," Trolio said. "Students think that this event is a great way to build community and to put our values in motion. Our largest gathering has been 25 students, but we generally get around 8-10 each week."

"To get the word out, we talk about this initiative in our classes and also have been featured in the Union Leader and Boston Globe, Trolio added. "We ask our friends to come, and even my dad came one week."

President Huddleston has not yet responded to the invitation to join the cause.

"We also asked President Huddleston to sign our commitment to 100 percent clean electricity by 2020 but we received no response," Trolio said.

Goals for the proceeds are starting to take shape.

"Next we're hoping to work with the university to use the money we save to fund renewable energy projects such as power-producing exercise equipment or a wind turbine," Lyon said.

"I've learned that even a small group of people can make an appreciable impact in energy usage," he added. "We save the university an average of $200 every weekend with our efforts - about 1600 kWh. We track our progress on the campus metering website: http://energy.sr.unh.edu/graph/."

The main goal of the initiative is to end it.

"The ultimate goal for Friday Night Lights Out is to become unnecessary," Lyon said. "If we steadily recruit additional people and spread the word to all of campus (students and faculty), every individual can be responsible for their own switches and we won't need a dedicated group anymore."


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