Campus Energy Use & the Environment

The link between energy use in Champlain College buildings and the environment

On an annual basis, Champlain College currently releases a little more than 7,000 tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Over half of these emissions are associated with energy use and are mostly attributable to activities that take place in Champlain's buildings, such as heating (with gas) and electricity usage. These gasses are changing the climate in ways that will increasingly affect every aspect of human culture, our economy and the natural environment.

Overall, Champlain's energy use has decreased over the past several years as shown in the chart below, and we will continue to strive to reduce usage. All members of our community can make a positive contribution to this effort.

energy use chart

Energy Usage at Champlain College 2004-2013
From annual Sightlines assessment

What kinds of energy are used to power Champlain residence halls?

Most residence halls on the Champlain College campus receive energy from two main sources. First, energy used to heat and deliver hot water to residence halls is generated through gas-fueled boilers in each building. Second, electrical energy consumed in residence halls is supplied to the college through "the grid" of power lines by a local municipal-owned utility, Burlington Electric Department. Electricity is used in residence halls to power mechanical systems, lighting, kitchen appliances and anything that is plugged into an outlet.

Why does the Kill-A-Watt Challenge only address electricity consumption?

We chose electricity because students in residence halls have substantial control over their personal and collective electricity use and have less control over heat consumption, as in some buildings students have thermostats, while in others they do not. Students who suffer from heating problems should describe problems to Residential Life or Physical Plant. Opening windows to cool an overheated space increases fossil fuel consumption.

Where does the electricity consumed by Champlain College come from?

Champlain College purchases our electricity from Burlington Electric Department (BED), which recently achieved 100% renewable energy sources. One of the major sources is the McNeil Generation Station, located in the Intervale, and is a large-scale biomass facility. Detailed information about the various sources of power can be found on BED's website. However, just because our electricity is 100% renewable, it does not mean that we can use as much as we want! There are still environmental and social implications for our electricity consumption, so please use it wisely. 

What are the environmental consequences of electricity consumption?

The economic and environmental costs of consuming electricity vary by region depending on the technology and fuel source used to generate that electricity. You can learn more about the impacts of various electricity generating sources at Power Scorecard.

For the moment the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to reduce the negative environmental impacts of electricity use is to reduce consumption. Electrical consumption in residence halls can be reduced by increasing the efficiency of buildings, by increasing the efficiency of building technologies and appliances (i.e. by doing the same thing with less electricity) and by changing behavior so that it is less consumptive. The Kill-A-Watt Challenge is designed to help students change their attitudes and behaviors in ways that conserve electricity.

Adapted from Oberlin College Resource Monitoring System.