01/06/15 : Jennifer Alldredge

Advocate or Activist: Which Are You?

Students can engage with energy efficiency issues as advocates and activists.

An integral part of the Alliance to Save Energy’s mission is to advocate for greater energy efficiency, but activism is another great strategy for making substantial efficiency gains. Despite having different meanings, these terms are often used interchangeably. The distinction? Advocates are those who represent or speak on behalf of groups, while activists are individuals who intentionally work to generate change. 

Some great examples of both exist in our PowerSave Schools and Campus programs.

School students in LA audited their school and generated recommendations. They then advocated for change to their school board on behalf of their fellow students, faculty and staff.

A student attending South Knox Elementary took the message of the Energy Hog to heart. She began watching faculty and staff very closely, and single-handedly monitored the office. She was an activist for change, especially when it came to turning off the lights when rooms were unoccupied.

The Energy Manager in North Penn constantly challenges schools and students to come up with ways to help save energy. Because of his activism for energy efficiency, students were inspired to convert Earth Day to PowerSave Day, finding unique ways to reduce energy consumption and publicize it so the entire community was educated and engaged.

College interns at CSU Long Beach organized a panel on the water-energy nexus to keep students informed about the policies and projects affecting their city and campus. Panelists included representatives from the Long Beach Water, a private water company called NALCO and the CSU Long Beach energy manager. These panelists provided background information, which enabled students to become activists for more sustainable water and energy in their own homes and classrooms or advocates for sustainable policies and state laws. Information is power, and an important first step in engaging student leaders.

The University of California’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2025 may be the most progressive climate action plan of any university system in the U.S. This momentous goal will require a multifaceted approach to increasing energy productivity and procuring clean energy. To help generate support, intern groups, student organizations and other concerned students have already begun advocating for this ambitious climate goal on behalf of the UC Office of the President. Enabling students to take a leadership role in advocating for on-campus energy efficiency is a key component in shifting student behavior change to bolster energy savings and achieve system-wide carbon neutrality by 2025. Student advocacy is paramount for the UC’s 2025 Carbon Neutrality Initiative because students can reach out to their peers in ways that the university administration cannot.

So which are you? Activist or Advocate? Either way, keep the action going and be an agent for positive change. Check out our Facebook page and let us know which one you are, and keep checking out ase.org/education for our new Youth Advocacy page, coming in 2015, for more ways you can get involved in energy efficiency activism and advocacy!