Earth Matters

Adopt a Light Switch

At Sunnybrook’s Earth Matters Showcase we collected ideas from you on how the hospital could save energy. As I went through all of the feedback I noticed a popular theme developing. You guessed it, the number one suggestion was: Turn off the lights!

Here are a few examples:
            • Turn out lights when room is not being used
            • Turning the lights off in walk-in coolers
            • Turn off power after hours
            • Turn off lights and computer at night
            • Shut off exam chair lights
            • Dimming the lights in the unit after 4pm
            • Turn lights off in the kitchen
            • Turn off lights on sunny days
            • Remind employees to turn off lights
And there are many more like this but you get the idea… So this got me thinking, if everyone can see that this idea has some serious potential for energy savings, why are the lights still being left on? In some cases I know that turning off lights is not possible due to lack of controls, but I am willing to bet that there are many more cases where a light switch exists, but no one turns it off.
In my opinion, there are two issues at play here, the first is what is referred to as the “not in my back yard” attitude. Since we are not individually paying for the energy that we use it is easy to take energy use for granted and think of energy savings as someone else’s problem. The second issue is that many light switches are serving multiple occupants and are therefore the responsibility of shutting them off falls on the collective group as a whole. This leads to a phenomenon called “diffusion of responsibility” whereby each of us assumes that others are either responsible for taking action or have already done so.
So here’s my suggestion and I encourage everyone to try it… Adopt a Light Switch! Whether it be the lunchroom, a walk-in fridge, a meeting room down the hall or even a forgetful colleague’s office. Adopt that light switch as your responsibility and encourage others to do the same. If we all contribute and look out for at least one switch we could have a great impact on energy savings.
Adopt a Light Switch Posters are available for staff to download on Sunnynet:
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About the author


Laura Berndt

Laura Berndt (Hough) is the Manager of Energy & Sustainability in Plant Operations at Sunnybrook.