Here’s how the typical first semester hall meeting goes, “Hi! Welcome to your new home. Here are a few rules for the community. Oh, and don’t forget to fill out this survey letting us know how long you shower for.”

It is a bit of an awkward and personal request, but those surveys on shower times and electronic use are part of a partnership and initiative that URI holds with the energy services company, NORESCO.

Dave Lamb, the assistant director of facilities services/utilities department at URI, explains that, “we selected NORESCO to provide energy conservation project development and implementation services for the University. The process we employed was called performance contracting. This is where the energy savings generated by the energy conservation measures (ECM’s) actually pay for the project over a period of time.”

The projects done around URI to improve energy conservation included lighting upgrades, heating and cooling improvements, ventilation work, and advocacy in the residence halls.

The University and NORESCO are interested in how long we shower because even as individuals, we can make a difference.  

“We try to gauge how the campus, both students and staff, feel about conservation in general.  This could include electricity, water, heat, etc. We started a behavior change program using expertise from NORESCO in 2008-2009. We wanted to engage the community to participate in conservation efforts, such as turning off lights, fans, a/c and computers when not in use and also taking shorter showers or using cold water when doing laundry,” said Lamb.

Those surveys for residents are part of the behavior change program. Each semester the data is entered and analyzed by Samantha Trbovich, a program specialist at NORESCO. She looks to compare data from the fall and spring semesters.

Trbovich said that energy conservation practices like using cold water for laundry and decreasing the number of showers per week become more popular as the year goes on. She believes the surveys play an integral role in raising awareness for topics of conservation on campus and in the residence halls.

“People have the power to make a difference, whether it is turning devices off when not in use, conserving water or recycling.  With our conservation efforts that we have already accomplished and new initiatives in the planning stage, we are hopeful that the momentum will continue to grow.  The more we engage the community and grow participation the more successful we will be.  Every little bit helps and every action that people take to conserve, no matter how small it seems, has an effect on reducing our carbon footprint,” Lamb said.