Feature Stories


Geramye Teeter, UCSF Sustainability Fellow, February 2017


Adopt A Spot: UCSF Community Takes Responsibility for Powering Down Specific Equipment

UCSF recently piloted Adopt A Spot, a behavior-change campaign sponsored by Pacific Gas & Electric. The program engaged 83 employees at two buildings at the Mission Bay campus, the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building and the Smith Cardiovascular Institute Building. The primary goal of the campaign was to engage building occupants to adopt a specific piece of equipment that could be powered down at the end of the day or when the equipment was not actively being used. “Parents” took responsibility for their light switches and other devices—putting them down for naps when not in use during the day and to bed before leaving the office in the evening.

Eighty-three employees adopted a piece of equipment with personalized signage that included their name, such as “My name is PCR machine. I’m adopted by Kate.”  And “My name is Lucy the Lights Switch and I’m adopted by Kira.” This strategy combines providing prompts with building a culture of norms, proven methods for creating small behavior changes at the individual level.

Combined Results:  A Measurable Decrease in Energy Use

The Adopt A Spot campaign ran for a total of four weeks in the fall of 2016. As labs, the goal of the campaign was to engage employees to reduce energy waste by targeting lighting and lab equipment shut off during non-occupied hours. The total results for both buildings showed the potential for an estimated decrease in energy waste of 8% at the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building and 9% at the Smith Cardiovascular Institute Building, with an estimated combined dollar savings of $22,715 annually, assuming the new habits stick. PG&E collaborated with a behavioral scientist and from this expert they determined that running a behavior change campaign for 4-6 weeks yields long-lasting changes. Therefore, these annual benefits are likely,  but not guaranteed.

A range of equipment was adopted, including lights, centrifuges, shakers, computer monitors, and one fume hood. This avoided energy consumption had a positive environmental impact of avoiding over 121 metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to planting a 114-acre forest.  A representative from SUPD as well as Office of Sustainability Fellow, Geramye Teeter, completed weekly audits of adopted equipment and held weekly raffle prize drawings to encourage participation.

The sample size consisted of approximately 40 occupants in each building; each had occupancy of approximately 225 people. This is significant as roughly 18% of the potential building population participated. Smith Cardiovascular Building Manager, Clarice Estrada, stated the campaign facilitators “made it easy” to engage building occupants and the “zero cost” of the campaign to her budget was an important factor when deciding to participate.

The Office of Sustainability is working to identify campus buildings eligible for expanding the Adopt A Spot campaign. 

Learn More:

Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building Full Report

Link to Smith Cardiovascular Institute Building Full Report

Step Up.  Power Down