Light UPBy Michael L. Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
About a year ago members of the UP Advertising Core (or Ad Core) thought they should organize a project around green lighting for the Diliman campus, meaning more energy-efficient light bulbs that would last longer, and with less adverse impact on the environment.
Ad Core’s members, who number some 230, are students interested in the advertising world; they come from the College of Business Administration, College of Fine Arts, and College of Mass Communications. You can see their interest in green lighting isn’t limited to technology. The lighting fixtures are to be part of a larger advocacy and public education project, which they call “Switching Your Ways,” around energy conservation.
The students wrote to several light bulb manufacturers, asking if any of them would be interested in donating the lights. Only one, Omni, was generous enough to respond and agree to donate lights.
The students then wrote me, as the dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP), if I would be interested in having the lights in Palma Hall, known to older UP alumni as the “AS building.” When I first read their letter, I wanted to write “YES! YES!” but ended up doing a more solemn acceptance of the offer, with rather profuse thanks because this was a perfect fit with plans for a greener CSSP. And where else to start but with the historic Palma or AS Building, which is a central hub in the Diliman campus, with all, and I mean all, students having to take liberal arts subjects?
Ad Core and Omni turned over the lights last weekend and we had a small opening ceremony on Tuesday—actually the first time I got to meet people from Ad Core: their president Jedo Enriquez, vice president for public relations Gale Griego, and the project head for Light UP, Hera Casidsid. I learned about how the project started, and that this was the first time they had launched it. They chose Palma Hall because our building is so strategic for reaching Diliman students. Besides Palma, they are also lighting up some streets on campus, notably around the track and field area.
In the Palma lobby they had put up an exhibit explaining why LED lights and T5 fixtures could make a difference. LED lights, one poster explains, are recyclable and mercury-free, with low carbon dioxide emissions. These produce less infrared light and close to zero ultraviolet (UV) emissions. Because these emit light in a single direction, there is no “light pollution.”
Another poster computes electric bills using Palma Hall’s old lights, compared with what the new ones would entail. The computations are impressive, with almost half a million pesos in reduced billings.
Still another poster provides energy-saving tips, from ironing only once a week to cleaning your light bulbs and postponing cell phone charging until they drain almost down to zero.
At the center of the exhibit they had a stationary bike attached to a battery and a light bulb. During the opening, they invited students to come up for some fast and furious biking, which generated energy to get the bulb to light up—a great way to explain energy savings (and expenditures). I ended up asking the students if they wanted to put up more of those bikes, this time attached to cell phone chargers. I showed them a video of such bike-charging stations at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport and thought it would be a great way to get our students and faculty to exercise. But one of the students told me their bike-charger cost P10,000 to build, the main expenditure being for the mountain bike.
It was also during the exhibit that I met Cherry Ong Lao, assistant sales and marketing manager of Yatai International Corp., which manufactures Omni products. You find them in our hardware stores: light bulbs, fixtures, extension cords, emergency lights. Cherry explained that they agreed to the project as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) thrust, and that Light UP was their first CSR venture into schools.
I want to emphasize I had never met people from Yatai International, so the CSSP’s getting the light bulbs wasn’t from a Chinese connection. But when I found out that Yatai is owned by Chinoys, with a woman chief operating officer, Lulu Chua, and that the company produces its own bulbs (rather than just buying from Chinese suppliers and adding a brand name), I couldn’t help but feel even more proud, hoping of course that more Chinoy companies may want to explore CSR.
Even before meeting the Ad Core and Omni people I had decided to write about this project. More than lighting up UP, I see the project as an excellent example of how we can tap into a powerful combination of youthful social awareness and idealism with CSR.
Here we have students who can think of social issues beyond socials. The choice of green lighting was important, making environmental issues more real by talking about our own buildings and classrooms and what we can do. Our light switches now have stickers, designed by Ad Core, reminding people to turn off the lights.
Ad Core’s Light UP reminds us that there’s more to environmental conservation than outdoor activities and nature appreciation. We forget that much of the destruction to the environment comes from what we do inside our homes and offices, including the use of energy-guzzling appliances, light fixtures, and our own habits of leaving the lights on.
Now for the business end. As I mentioned earlier, Palma Hall is a central hub in Diliman so I’m constantly getting letters from companies wanting to do promotional activities, mainly giving away free samples. I’ve been very empathic in saying no to junk foods (instant noodles, especially), soft drinks and high-caffeine drinks because I work in public health and I do not want students blaming UP later on when they become adults and come down with all kinds of ailments from those products.
The Light UP project shows that there are so many more worthwhile products from the private sector that can be promoted. I’m well aware that CSR is never totally altruistic, so some brand-name promotion is acceptable, but I do set limits, asking to see the plans for promotional materials before they’re finalized. Ad Core and Omni designed great information and educational materials without pushing Omni too hard. I can tell you, from working in health communications, that hard-sell tactics turn off consumers, while more discreet, but visible, brand names can be more impressive: “Wow, what a great company, donating so much but being so low-key about it.”
Ultimately, you attract people to your products when they feel a change. I have students and faculty already commenting on how our lobby is so much brighter with the new Omni lights. Leaving the office the night after the lights were installed, I did find myself thinking, Ah, new light for old eyes (mine) as I felt safer with the new lights, security-wise as well as environmentally.
I’m impressed, too, with Ad Core, and have challenged them to get involved in more social advocacy projects, maybe even resource generation for CSSP, oops, I meant, UP.
If you’re wondering, yes, they are on Facebook:
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