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Campus - 09.12.2020 - 00:00

Student initiative: living sustainably and saving money

What would you do if someone told you that you could save CHF 780 a year in the flat you share with three others if you followed a few tips in your everyday life? Perhaps you would work out how many times you could travel to the nearest ski resort with your friends, how many bars of chocolate this money would buy to see you through the coming learning periods or how often you could have a cup of coffee in the ad[hoc] with your friends. But before any of this can be translated into reality, the question of “How?” arises. By student reporter Anna Schreiter.

9 December 2020. If my dad taught me anything with regard to sustainable living, it was that I should turn the heating down when I left the flat for a long period of time and I should for goodness sake not always tilt the window, but instead open it properly once in the morning and once in the evening for intensive ventilation. At any rate, my turned-up heating is not intended to warm the environment but my room.

Sustainable living

But what does “sustainable living” mean at all and how can I best implement it in everyday life? In the context of Dr. Patrick Stähler’s course on “Sustainable Start-ups”, a team made up of five graduate students of the University of St.Gallen have made it their business to get to the bottom of this question. They want to find out what it means to reduce CO2 emissions in private households and how it can be successfully achieved. In their personal environment, they found out in online surveys and interviews that a majority of the interviewees would like to live more sustainably but that implementation was impaired by aspects like ignorance, existing habits or inconvenience, which manifested itself in the well-known attitude/behaviour gap. “Most of them turn up the heating to the highest level because the think that the room will warm up faster. Then they turn the heating down again a bit,” says Matthias Ostfeld of the “Sustainable Living” student initiative.

Energy-saving myths

With regard to their investigations, the students have discovered that the myth of the “heating warming up faster” only appears to be one of many myths which remain unexplained, are widespread and are firmly established in many people’s heads. Consistently switching the light on and off may also entail more negative aspects that positive ones, regardless of good intentions. Thus many people do not know that a constant “on and off” when entering and leaving a room sometimes uses up more energy than a lamp that is kept on for a short period of time.

Combining quality of life with climate protection

How can more sustainable living be translated into practice, then? The students have created solutions which are intended to be used as channels for extensive information and explanation. These channels include arrival brochures which people moving into the city of St.Gallen will be given as from next year, a social media channel as an aggregated mouthpiece, as well as gift boxes which will be distributed on the campus and in the St.Gallen’s inner city in the future. For example, these approaches provide information such as instructions for proper ventilation, the ideal room temperature and humidity, as well as explanations of how thermostats, washing machines and showers work. The general objective is to increase the quality of life of every individual, to make people more aware of more sustainable living and to address the omnipresent problem of climate protection.

Dear dad, you were right – it’s better to open the window completely for a short time than to tilt it. But this alone does not constitute sustainable living. for the heating should not only be turned down a bit before you leave the flat or house every day (!), but also before you let the air in. There are also many individual options for using electric power more efficiently. In a flat shared by four people, CHF 780 can be saved with all these measures with relatively little effort (source: oikos). Precisely how this works is shown by the students of the “Sustainable Living” initiative in the brochures and on their Instagram page. After all, who would say no to free skiing holidays, endless supplies of their favourite chocolate or 312 cups of coffee in the ad[hoc]?

Anna Kati Schreiter is studying Business Administration in the fifth semester at the University of St.Gallen.

Image: Adobe Stock / Tiko

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