University of Vermont

Students on the Lawn

Energy Orbs!



As a senior Eco-Rep, I’ve studied barriers to environmentally sustainable behavior for two years now. Overwhelmingly, it’s been my experience that when people act in ways that threaten the environment, it is because of a lack of knowledge and information. For example, every semester, the eco-reps do a light bulb swap. We find that there are many rooms with energy-sucking light bulbs. When we offer students CFL bulbs in exchange for their out of date light bulbs, they are always grateful, and many times ask about the benefits of their new light bulb, and what other small changes they can make to reduce their carbon footprint.


At Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, students and environmental studies professors have installed what they call “Energy Orbs.” These are essentially large lights that, like a mood ring, change color based on how much energy the building they are in is using. If the energy orb is red, that means the building is using a lot of energy, and if it is green, that means it is using a sustainable amount.


If these bulbs were installed in dorms or larger, classroom buildings, UVM students, faculty, and staff would be able to check how a given building is functioning at any time of day. It would be inspiration to change unsustainable behavior that might make the light go red- like leaving a light on, flushing the toilet too often, or taking long showers. It would be a reminder to keep environmental sustainability in the back of our minds throughout the day. In addition, it is a good supplement to LEED certification, because it tracks levels of sustainability instead of just designating a building “green” without checking up on it daily.

Here is a link to more information on the program at Oberlin: