UI focusing on conservation


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To aid in the ongoing struggle for sustainability, one University of Iowa employee takes a unique approach to the subject.

Doug Litwiller,  â€Žassociate director of energy conservation at the UI, takes on the character of “Professor KW Therm” to make his message of energy efficiency more accessible to the public.

“People who aren’t energy experts really don’t want to hear an engineer-type lecture them,” he said. “[I realized I had to come as a character] to make it more interesting to the typical layman.”

Litwiller’s alter ego serves to increase awareness of energy consumption while both UI and Iowa City officials plan to focus their sustainability efforts on this topic.

Litwiller’s presentation is just part of the UI’s overall efforts to reach its 2020 vision goal of net-negative energy growth.

Though the goal is ambitious, UI Office of Sustainability Director Liz Christiansen said the outlook is positive.

“We’ve reduced our energy consumption by over 3 percent since 2010,” she said. “We’re currently on track to help meet our target.”

Litwiller originally developed the “Therm” character around 2004, when he worked at Alliant Energy. Part of his job was teaching employees of various companies how to be more energy efficient. Coming in as a character helped these employees become more engaged and entertained, he said.

While the net-negative energy growth goal is only one part of the 2020 vision, Litwiller said it is a crucial part.

“It’s always cheaper to reduce consumption,” he said. “If we can reduce consumption on campus, it will make [our other goals] easier to achieve.”

One of the other goals of the UI is to decrease the production of waste by the university.

Christiansen said there is still some progress to be made on this goal.

“We need to, in essence, double our waste-reduction efforts,” she said.

The focus on sustainability at the university is also reflected by Iowa City, said Iowa City recycling coordinator Jen Jordan.

“To me, it all comes back to waste [reduction],” she said. ”The city’s making huge strides.”

Iowa City saw a 20 percent increase in recycling in the last year, demonstrating that these efforts are working. Following that success, Jordan is turning the city’s focus to energy conservation by focusing this year’s educational outreach on the topic.

The city has additional energy events planned in the future, including a presentation on trends in Midwest energy use and production on and an energy fair.

Though he addresses conservation lightheartedly, energy use is a very important issue, Litwiller said.

“It’s just not good to waste resources,” he said. “So much of the energy we consume, we waste it.”

The UI is employing many means to become more energy efficient, Litwiller said. Occupancy detectors have been installed at many university facilities, turning off the lights when nobody is in the room. Though the school is on track to reach its goal, there is still a long way to go, he said.

“We’re going to have to keep thinking outside of the box and really engaging the university community,” he said.

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