Huge thanks to everyone who joined us at the Energize!BRAC and UVA Sustainability collaborative meeting on Tuesday, June 23. Those in attendance included ELEVEN student and staff representatives from the UVA Office for Sustainability (OFS), Susan Elliott (who is spearheading the Energize!Charlottesville campaign), property management representatives from MSC, CBS Rentals, and Woodard Properties, as well as a handful of BRAC vendors. It was an extremely productive and beneficial meeting for all in attendance, and we all walked away with stronger relationships with the University of Virginia community, helpful information from the UVA student perspective, and tangible next steps to further our Energize!BRAC efforts.
(If you are not familiar with the Energize!BRAC and Energize!Charlottesville campaigns, read more here.)
Big Takeaway #1:
From the student perspective, “prompts” or “visual cues” are effective in encouraging sustainable behavior change. The idea behind using visual prompts in implementing behavior change is to remind residents of how to act at the point of relevance in space and time in a positive way. Examples of visual prompt campaigns that have been successful on-grounds:
- “Flip the switch:” Reminders to turn off the light when leaving a room. Used in the Dorm Energy Race to reduce building-wide energy usage on-grounds.
- “Try Just One:” Stickers on all paper towel dispensers encouraging the use of just one paper towel in an effort to reduce the amount of paper towel waste around grounds.
Big Takeaway #2:
UVA students and OFS staff are working to implement an off-grounds Sustainability Advocate program similar to that which currently serves on-grounds students. The goal here is to connect property managers with SA’s (sustainability advocates) who will help implement action items at off-grounds apartment communities and work with us to effectively engage our residents in our initiatives. Some other ways the off-grounds SA program could be beneficial to our Energize!BRAC efforts:
- The meeting attendees discussed the possibility of collaborating with UVA’s Madison House to create a program for environmental conservation where volunteers would complete simple energy-saving activities (i.e. replacing inefficient light bulbs, shower heads etc.), so while the volunteers would be helping our apartment communities they would also be learning real life tasks they could implement in their own homes and share with their roommates/friends.
- SA’s could help replicate the existing on-grounds Dorm Energy Race (a 4 week competition to reduce energy consumption) at off-grounds apartment communities.
- Collaborating with student SA’s creates “social proof,” a concept that has proven to effectively drive customer behavior change based on the “if other people like me are doing it, it’s likely that I will” mentality.
Next month’s Energize!BRAC meeting will focus specifically on establishing an off-grounds advocacy program, so stay tuned for details on that!
Big Takeaway #3:
Susan informed our group that an excellent new tool called the Energy Center recently launched on the Energize!Charlottesville website. This tool allows individual customers in the City of Charlottesville to link their utility accounts in order to track their natural gas and electricity usage by month, allowing customers to clearly see the results of their energy-saving initiatives.
Who will host the next Energize!BRAC meeting? This meeting could focus on whatever topic the host desires, but might be most productive if we continue to explore and develop the UVA sustainability/Energize!BRAC collaboration with the Sustainability Advocate program. Please consider stepping up and providing a space and time for us to meet as ongoing participation is crucial to the Energize!BRAC and Energize!Charlottesville campaigns! Let Crys or Joy know if you are interested.
For for more takeaways and notes from our June meeting, check out the thorough recap from Sakib with the UVA Office for Sustainability.