Friday Night Lights Out Cuts Penn State’s Energy Usage

As a Penn State student, you always hear about the amazing things your peers are doing. Some are involved in student and local government, others are starting their own businesses, and others still spend their Friday nights walking around campus turning off lights.

Yes, you read that right.

For the past 12 years, groups of students have taken time out of their Friday evenings to walk around campus and turn off lights that remain burning in empty classrooms. Since the group meets every Friday night, their campaign has been lovingly dubbed “Friday Night Lights Out.”

Former Penn State student and vice president of service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega Emily Hoberg founded the initiative in 2006. She got the idea from a discussion she had had with an employee of Penn State’s Office of the Physical Plant (OPP).

The unnamed employee explained that he would often spend his lunch break walking around campus and turning off lights that had been left on in empty classrooms. Hoberg was inspired by the employee’s simple dedication to reducing energy waste, and was struck with the idea to turn his personal project into an organized initiative.

Once the idea was born, the Council of Lionhearts, an affiliate student organization comprised of student representatives from various service and philanthropy student organizations, implemented and ran the event.

The Council of Lionhearts ran the event for 12 years. They recently passed the program to the Council of Sustainable Leaders because the initiative’s goals are more closely aligned with the council’s goals of promoting sustainability.

Student volunteers from all sorts of service clubs and organizations come to take part in the project every week, though a sizable portion of the volunteers are often members of sororities. Penn State’s Housing and Food Services donates pizza for the 20 volunteers to enjoy after trekking around campus for an hour.

Last year alone, 475 volunteers were able to turn off 49,392 lights and save the university approximately $6,500.

“Seeing the numbers at the end of the year is a great feeling,” said Sam Anawalt, a co-director for the Council of Sustainable Leaders. “We hope to expand this impact by taking note of heating and cooling abnormalities and reporting this information back to OPP.”

Student volunteers also report on heating abnormalities, like if the room is too hot or cold. Since heating is a major use of energy, identifying rooms with abnormalities is immensely beneficial.

Some classrooms on campus don’t have occupancy sensors, and lights that are left on waste energy and money all weekend. It’s not as if the data the group collects goes to waste — OPP heeds their findings and makes changes based on them.

In the end, all of the data that’s collected is reported to OPP. They’re then able to fix any pressing issues and figure out ways to implement the data for the university’s benefit in the future.

“I think that it is interesting that we get to collaborate with the Office of the Physical Plant,” Anawalt said, “and make a real impact on Penn State’s energy usage.”

If you’re interested in signing up to participate in the initiative, signups for the event can be found here.

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a senior from the ever-popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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