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Does your office fridge need replacing?

They are big and white, devour energy and could be gathering dust in your department: old, faulty or unused fridges are anything but sustainable. This spring, staff from the Faculty of Humanities swapped 18 of these electricity guzzlers for more energy-efficient models. How did they go about this and what were the results?

As with most projects, replacing the old fridges at the Faculty of Humanities took some figuring out first. ‘Leiden University is becoming much more conscious of sustainability and as a faculty we wanted to see what we could do about it ourselves’, says Willemijn Matze from the project team. ‘We knew we had various fridges of different ages spread across our buildings. But we didn’t have a clear overview.’

Fridges in offices

The first step was to find old invoices. ‘That’s how we managed to find the purchase date of some of the fridges’, says Willemijn. ‘On the advice of the Real Estate department, we decided to at least replace ones that were more than five years old. This is the point when it becomes worth investing in new white goods.’

The faculty then asked the University Services Department (UFB) to make a comprehensive inventory. Relocation coordinator Mo Rbii did a tour of the faculty buildings and rounded the list up to 18 old, unused and/or faulty fridges. ‘Most were in coffee corners and kitchens but we also found some in people’s offices’, he says. ‘Some fridges were more or less empty.

‘We also found fridges in people’s offices, some were more or less empty.’

Table-top model with no ice box

Of the 18 ‘rejected’ fridges, five were removed permanently because they were barely used and the staff felt they didn’t need a new one. ‘Most people were fine with walking to the closest coffee corner or kitchen from now on’, says Willemijn. ‘Then they don’t need a fridge in their office.’

The remaining 13 fridges were replaced by newer, more energy-efficient models. They don’t have an ice box. ‘That’s not really necessary at work and it makes a huge difference in terms of energy use. We also got the go-ahead from the users to replace a number of big fridges with table-top models.’

A group of staff who only used their fridge to chill drinks for get-togethers were advised to only switch it on when they were actually going to have such a get-together. An important tip: always leave the fridge door open when you switch it off to stop it going mouldy.

And the big question is: what are the results? The 18 old fridges at the Faculty of Humanities each used around 136 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year and the 13 new ones only use 74 kWh per year. The project has therefore saved around 1,500 kWh per year. To illustrate: this is about half of the electricity used by an average Dutch household per year or a week’s electricity consumption for the entire P. J. Veth building.

What did the staff think?

The reactions to the project were positive right from the start, says Willemijn. ‘Everything was in consultation anyway but people immediately understood why we are doing this. As a university we want to save energy in as many ways as possible, which makes it a shame to have fridges running that are old or hardly used at all. Then it’s more sustainable and safer to purchase new appliances.’

And that doesn’t just apply to fridges, relocation coordinator Mo adds. ‘Kettles or coffee machines at work for instance. Sometimes old models are broken or aren’t used properly, which is not without its risks. So ask yourself how often you actually use an appliance and whether it really needs to be there.’

Do you and your colleagues want to have an old, faulty or unused fridge removed or replaced? Contact the nearest servicedesk.

Are you also smart with energy?

Leiden University does everything possible to save energy. You can find more information on the staff website about the current energy campaign and tips for making savings.  Are you also smart in how you handle energy? Do you like connecting with colleagues who are committed to a sustainable university? If so, join the Teams environment of the sustainability network.

Text: Evelien Flink
Image: Wolfgang Eckert via Pixabay

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