How green is the Class of 2015?

Author: Rachel Novick


Generation Y is known for its commitment to social change and making a difference. Whether the issue is civil rights in developing nations or helping out the homeless domestically, Generation Y is eager to get involved. With one of their favorite buzzwords being sustainability, the Office of Sustainability was interested in finding out if this Generation really practices what they preach.

With some of the last students of Generation Y now coming through Notre Dame, the Office decided to poll the Class of 2015 on their sustainable (or unsustainable) habits. Almost 800 students responded within the first week: 96% of first year responders claim to turn off the lights when they leave the room and take the steps instead of the elevator, 65% of students use CFLs over incandescent bulbs, 88% turn off the tap while brushing their teeth, 58% use Energy Star appliances, and 67% use reusable bags.

“These are very encouraging results,” said Rachel Novick, Education and Outreach Program Manager in the Office of Sustainability. "They suggest that eco-conscious behaviors are becoming the norm on campus, no longer something those “green” students do."

One of the more surprising statistics was that only 24% turn off their appliances when finished using them. Many electronics, particularly televisions, stereos, and computer and phone chargers, continue to suck “vampire energy” even when the appliance appears to be off, or when the phone or computer is not even plugged into the charger. “Vampire energy is easy to overlook, but it really adds up,” commented Anna Gorman ‘13, an intern at the Office of Sustainability who developed the survey. "Across the country, vampire energy wastes about $4 billion each year, and it’s easy to fix by keeping things unplugged when not in use."

The Office of Sustainability hopes to use these results as a way to target different energy conservation and waste reduction strategies, as well as highlight what are already mainstream habits. Julia McGinty, a member of the Class of 2015, gave her point of view, “I think it’s important to get the Class of 2015 involved in sustainability, because it’s our job to carry green initiatives into the future.”

First year students interested in finding out about more ways to green their college experience can read The Freshman Green Guide. The short guide is also a great resource in general for those wondering how they can make a difference to the University’s overall sustainability efforts.