Queen's University

Student plan targets vending machine consumption, emissions


In the spirit of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, the fictional curmudgeon from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, second-year Commerce student Trevor Shah would like to dim the lights at Queen’s. Specifically, his target is the bright lights in the university’s beverage vending machines.

Unlike Scrooge, however, Mr. Shah’s motives are for the public good. He’s hoping to reduce energy usage of each machine from 20 to 60 per cent, depending on their location, and reduce the campus carbon footprint through reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

The proposal – which is now being implemented on a trial basis in several locations on campus – involves installing a simple “plug-and- play” device called a ‘vending miser’ that shuts off a machine’s lights when no motion has been detected nearby for more than 15 minutes. The device uses an overhead infrared sensor to power down the vending machine when the surrounding area is vacant, while maintaining the temperature of the vended product.

“It’s so cool to know that this little instrument will reduce electricity consumption by an average of 46 per cent and help shrink our carbon footprint,” says Mr. Shah. The two misers currently in use at Queen’s are located in Mackintosh- Corry Hall – an area of dense traffic that would allow an annual 20 per cent savings – and Dupuis Hall, where traffic is less congested, resulting in longer “power down” periods and a 60 per cent annual reduction in electrical consumption.

“Our goal is to identify the machines on campus that would produce the highest savings and install the misers there,” says Mr. Shah. “Queen’s Sustainability Office is proposing that we install 75 more vending misers across campus. We hope this initiative will be another way that Queen’s becomes more sustainable and friendly to our environment.”

Approved by both Coke and Pepsi, the vending miser is currently in use at a number of Canadian and U.S. institutions, including Tufts University in Massachusetts where vending machines have reduced half their electricity consumption and carbon dioxide emissions over the past year. At a cost of $230 each, it’s expected that the vending misers will pay for themselves in a little over a year.

Commerce student Trevor Shah “triggers” a motion sensor above a vending machine equipped with a vending miser device in Mackintosh- Corry Hall.

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Last updated at 4:16 pm EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
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