Switch Your Thinking: Stay Tuned for More Ideas from Mark Windham

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Mark Windham has Switched his Thinking!Mark Windham has a few good ideas on how UT employees can curb some of the university’s energy usage.

He recently led a charge to rid his area within the agriculture campus’ Biotechnology Building of personal refrigerators in colleagues’ offices. He also recruited volunteers to clean out the little-used refrigerator in his area’s break room to help encourage others to use it.

“There were food containers marked from three years ago,” says Windham. “People got tired of digging through the crowded refrigerator so they started bringing their own. It was just a waste.”

Beyond ridding his hallway of excess appliances, Windham has also been encouraging his co-workers to turn off computers, monitors and printers when leaving their offices for the day or extended periods of time.

“These seem like small things up close,” says Windham, “but this could mean someone’s job. Those little things can make a big difference.”

A professor of entomology and plant pathology, Windham and colleague Robert Trigiano developed disease-resistant dogwood trees, revitalizing Tennessee’s nursery industry. The breakthrough earned the duo UT’s 2007 Wheely Award for Technology Transfer, the university’s most prestigious award for entrepreneurship.

UT Knoxville launched the Switch Your Thinking campaign in September as a way to encourage faculty, staff and students to think differently about energy use on campus. Saving energy means saving money, and The University of Tennessee last month also introduced an initiative dedicated to finding ways to cut costs across all areas of the university system.

Windham believes it’s everyone’s job to try to conserve energy and spending around the university. He takes his role seriously and last month submitted a few of his suggestions to Interim Chancellor Jan Simek via e-mail.

Switch Your Thinking“Times are tough and we all need to look for ways to be more efficient and better manage whatever level of resources we are allocated,” read Windham’s e-mail. “I appreciate you asking for input on how we could better manage the resources we have.”

Windham’s suggestions, which include removing small appliances from personal offices and shutting down office equipment when leaving for the day, as well as a plan for switching to a four-day week for employees and students, are just the tip of an iceberg of cost-savings ingenuity. He insists that more ideas will follow, but that he didn’t want to bombard campus administration with too many suggestions at once.

Windham knows he may catch some flack for posing the idea of a four-day work week and admits it would be a drastic change. His plan would adjust the start and end times for Monday through Thursday day time classes to 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. respectively. He points out the potential savings in energy if the campus turned off academic areas of buildings on Fridays, as well as the potential gas saved by commuters. He’s not insensitive to issues adjusted hours would present to employees and students such as childcare and off-campus work schedules.

“But,” he says, “the big question is how serious are you about saving energy? You can always find reasons not to do something. But it’s paramount for everyone to look for ways to save money. Every dollar saved is a dollar that doesn’t have to be cut.”

Windham and his wife Karen, who works in the office of the Vice President and General Counsel, have made changes in their home life that reflect their care and attention to saving energy. From replacing light bulbs to replacing their garage door, they’re working on a long list of around-the-house projects that they hope will lower their power bills and put a few extra dollars in their pocket, a little at a time.

“UT can save money that way, too,” he says. “If you have several thousand people here doing the same thing, how much could we save?”

Tell us what you do to save money and energy at UT. Send your suggestions to the chancellor by visiting http://chancellor.utk.edu/budget/feedback/. To learn more about the ways you can Switch Your Thinking and read about more stories about campus efficiency, visit http://utk.edu/features/switch.

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