SAVES2 is an international campaign aimed at third-level students, targeting a measurable and significant reduction in energy use amongst students. The programme was borne of a brilliant idea in the UK, which was championed by the National Union of Students. In 2017, Ireland joined an international coalition of universities from around Europe, to bring SAVES “Student Switch Off” to four Universities in Ireland.
Staff hall of fame
Key to the future success of the Student Switch Off are the students and staff working in accommodation and energy efficiency in Universities across Ireland, backed by a tiny team of staff inside USI.
As with many offices, schools and hotel rooms, there is generally no financial incentive for students in halls to use energy carefully. The Student Switch Off uses prize incentives such as tickets to Students’ Union nights out and communal parties and focuses on peer-to-peer communication and creating a sense of competition to provide incentives that go beyond just being more ‘environmentally friendly’. In the last academic year (2015/16) the first Student Switch Off, the campaign achieved a 6.6% reduction in electricity usage on average across all the participating halls of residence – keeping over 1,800 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
It’s very important to us that our campaign reaches beyond the usual green suspects. We aim to get even the people with little prior interest or knowledge in energy and climate change involved through making the campaign appealing and fun.
While we recognise that switching things off isn’t the solution to climate change on its own, we think saving energy is a good building block and the actions that we encourage students to adopt will save them money on their bills when they move into private accommodation.
Everyone’s a winner
With some companies, their number one benefit is to their shareholders. However the people who have a stake in the Student Switch Off are, well, just about everybody.
We save universities money which is good for students, staff and of course the taxpayer. We benefit student volunteers by giving them transferable skills and experience in marketing, communication and campaigning. And of course everyone benefits from the reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Occasionally we dress up as an Eco-Power Ranger which is of benefit to… OK, no one’s perfect!
A little help from our friends
In Ireland, we’re just getting started, but we are enormously grateful to the SEAI, the four universities, Gaelectric Holdings PLC for helping with the startup. We’re hugely grateful to a number of organisations for getting us where we are today – Ben & Jerry’s for supporting us from the start and Carbon Leapfrog (especially Bird & Bird, Andrew Woods and Garry Charnock) for securing us free legal and accountancy advice when we first started up as a not-for-profit.
A lot of help from the European Commission.
The SAVES2 programme is funded across Europe through the Horizon 2020 programme and we are immensely grateful for this support – not to mention proud to use the EU symbol.