The idea for the Student Switch Off came about in October 2005 while Neil Jennings was doing his PhD at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia. Climate change was rarely off his mind and he was thinking about ways in which the issue could be tackled by encouraging behavioural change. As a student himself he thought about what would motivate his friends to use energy carefully when living in halls. He thought that a few ‘subtle’ prize incentives wouldn’t do any harm and that drawing on the natural rivalry between halls could also help… and so the concept for the Student Switch Off was born.
The initiative ran as a pilot at UEA in 2006/07 and helped to reduce energy usage by an average of over 10% – saving around 90 tonnes of CO2 and over £19,000 in energy expenditure. While running the initiative at UEA he was lucky enough to become one of 2 Ben & Jerry’s Climate Change Ambassadors for the UK. Being an ambassador of the Ben & Jerry’s Climate Change College helped him to expand the Student Switch Off to 7 Universities in 2007/08 where we achieved average reductions in energy usage of 8.7%, saved over 500 tonnes of CO2 and over £100,000 for the participating Universities. In 2008/09 the campaign achieved an average reduction of 9.4% saving over 1,300 tonnes of CO2 and over £210,000. The campaign illustrates that small actions, when replicated, can make a massive difference in reducing carbon emissions – power to the people!
In 2009 the SSO partnered with the National Union of Students and together they were successful in obtaining funding from DEFRA’s Greener Living Fund and from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The funding allowed the campaign to expand to 22 new Universities for the academic year 2009/10 and to take on three new full-time staff – Andy Hix, Heather Smith and Harry Day.
For the academic year 2010-11, two new staff were taken on – Emily Thompson-Bell and Danni Paffard – and the team engaged with over 89,000 students. This academic year 2011/12 the campaign is running at 43 Universities with 4.6 staff – Neil, Emily, Harry, Jesse Scharf and Richard Roaf (part time)!