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A team of four Lancaster University students is one of the eleven finalists in the national competition ‘Future Leaders’, organised by RWE npower plc – a leading integrated UK energy company. The challenge requires each to come up with a project that gets the local community to adopt a greener lifestyle. The prize includes an internship with the company and a trip to the Amazon rainforest.
With the end of the competition approaching, Iko Congo, Alex Waugh, Justin Allen and Jean Dupouy are working hard to inspire the student community in Lancaster and the Netherlands to live more environmentally-friendly through their project, called ‘Smart Switch’.
In an interview with the team, Alex explained the idea behind ‘Smart Switch’: “We all know how our flatmates, admittedly ourselves, are sometimes leaving the lights on in the kitchen, in our room, and we started thinking how to make people not do that.”
The team have come up with a simplistic but effective tool to carry out their project – stickers, a most gentle reminder to switch off the lights. At the moment, the team is working in collaboration with LUSU Living – the purpose of which is to distribute 1000 stickers in 200 LUSU Living properties. Alex Waugh added “the purpose is to test out whether the stickers would cause a reduction in energy consumption, the idea being that the energy saved would cover the cost of the stickers. Saving money and energy at the same time – that is the goal of our sustainable project.”
With one of the team members, Jean Dupouy, on a study abroad programme, the project has expanded to the Netherlands. Alex continued: “We have a study going over there as well – 250 student rooms covered with the stickers; we are going to do surveys and potentially in the future collect data and analyse it.” The team hopes to be able to compare the percentage reductions in UK and Netherlands. However small the sample size of their project is, Justin Allen pointed out, “it is a pilot study that would encourage people to do bigger studies.”
The team entered the competition in May, having submitted a short video, explaining what their project was about and how it would make a difference. Once they passed through the first round of the competition, they had a weekend-long training in Malvern where they got the chance to network with people from RWE npower plc and get advice on the project.
As general advice to students, Iko Congo encouraged them to give a chance to these extracurricular activities. “I have learned so much more from participating in these challenges. It really gives experience, things to talk about, especially in interviews and job applications but most of all, it is an opportunity to develop your capacities.”