ECO Agency plans to implement LED lighting in new buildings

With glaring statistics pointing to humans as the cause of environmental pollution, the Energy & Conservation Organization (ECO) Agency is ready to do their part to help the university. Their initiative seeks to retrofit the campus with energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. Last week, they achieved a victory toward their goal.

Spearheaded by Senior Class Senator Melissa Wyatt and ECO Agency chair Nika Hosseini, a bill in the Student Government Senate was met with unanimous approval to have LED lights implemented in all future university construction and for retrofitting to happen as soon as possible.

“It is crucial for us as a university to lead the way in this environmental initiative,” said Wyatt, who is also an ECO Agency board member. “With how much energy LED lighting saves, it’s just incredible and something that we need.”

The LED lights would reduce light pollution and would concurrently eliminate the use of bulbs containing mercury and other metals. This makes them last 10 times longer than the existing light bulbs used by the university. They also produce a better quality of light for increased visibility and reduced maintenance costs.

This initiative has been guided by Wyatt, who has been captivated by the environment since her early childhood in St. Petersburgh, Florida, and will do what she can to help the cause.

“Growing up in a coastal environment where I lived minutes away from a beach, it was so easy to see the environmental impacts when you see your ocean getting dirty,” Wyatt said. “Things were washing up near my house, and if it is right in front of your face, you can’t ignore it. It’s hard to ignore it when you can see the destruction of the environment.”

Armed with an AP Environmental Science class in high school and numerous statistics showing the declining nature of the world, she has always been aware of environmental issues. She joined ECO Agency to help make a difference on a large scale in the university and to collaborate with others to make changes.

“We all have to do something about this. We have to take action,” she said.

With the help of ECO Agency and Hosseini, this initiative will soon come to life in the university.

A senior majoring in ecosystem science and policy, Hosseini has worked tirelessly with Wyatt and administrative faculty members to measure the feasibility of the project. The chair of ECO Agency is an “environmentalist in every facet of [her] life.”

Hosseini’s love for the environment is illustrated not only by her actions, but also by the physical inks on her forearms. On her left arm is a tattoo of a tree in its dormant stage. It has no leaves, only branches. It has no life, yet is not dead. To her, this represents hope that the tree will grow, an allegory of something that she hopes will happen for the world. To further accentuate that, inked on her right forearm is the word “hope” in Persian, her native tongue.

“Once I was exposed to the world of environmentalism, I wanted to get this,” Hosseini  said. “With the two tattoos together, it signifies potential. That there is hope.”

She is a member of Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization, and runs the Nika K. Hosseini Foundation, where she aims to bring safe and accessible water to countries in need. Now, she’s trying to help her university.

Over the summer, Derek Sheldon, one of Hosseini’s members, used Wyatt’s research on LED lighting with the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center to see the benefits of retrofitting. The results were encouraging.

There was a 62.5 percent decrease in energy from using LED bulbs and it proved to be more cost-effective. A cost-benefit analysis was conducted that studied the energy usage and costs of current lighting across campus, showing that having LED lights installed would result in energy savings of 50 to 70 percent.

Research at benchmark institutions has shown similar benefits. There were anticipated savings of $25 million over seven years at the University of North Carolina and 66 percent energy savings at Dartmouth College. Massachusetts Institute of Technology observed an increase of 100 percent in student usage of areas on campus that had been retrofitted with LED lighting, a trend that is likely to be replicated on the University of Miami’s campus.

The Whitten University Center is one of the campus buildings planning to follow in the Wellness Center’s footsteps.

“All new buildings on campus are planned to be certified as LED Silver as a minimum standard,” Richard Jones, associate vice president of design and construction said about being recognized by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designing. “We try to engineer those buildings to be as energy efficient as feasibly possible.”

Now that the bill has passed, all that’s left is to wait for administrative procedures to take their course. New construction can already implement the LED lights immediately, though retrofitting may take some time.

The 12-member ECO Agency doesn’t mind, though. They know helping the environment will take some time and that there is always potential and hope.  This initiative has been for the university and especially for present and future students.

“ECO Agency is for the students, by the students,” Hosseini said.

Featured image courtesy Pixabay user: pashminu