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Jan SimekThe Switch Your Thinking campaign unveiled last week sets an ambitious goal for our campus—a 10 percent reduction in the amount of energy we use over the course of this fiscal year. This call to action asks four simple things of all Knoxville-area employees—turn off lights, computers, power strips and window air conditioners when they’re not in use.

If taken to heart by the entire campus community, these steps would save UT Knoxville an estimated $1.2 million annually.

I believe passionately in the Switch Your Thinking initiative—it makes sense in the heart and the pocketbook.

First of all, it is the right thing to do. We are, despite all of our differences, stewards of the Earth. Secondly, in the larger context of global warming, it is the practical path for all nations and their citizens. It is no exaggeration to say we are in a planetary crisis.

In addition, I would argue that all of us who want to see UT prosper must do this. Given the economic realities in Tennessee, we must tighten our belts. The taxpayers expect no less.

Our biggest advantage is that we have already started to get ahead of the environmental curve—to, in a phrase, "Make Orange Green."

Switch Your ThinkingWe can find many examples of how we’re already on the right path: student environmental fees, an active recycling program, a light bulb exchange, practices that avoid waste altogether, national green cleaning awards, and the Environmental Stewardship Fund supported by faculty and staff and other donors. You can read more about these remarkable efforts at

"Switch Your Thinking" is the opportunity for each of us to take very specific and active steps to do our part.

But our efforts cannot stop there. There is much more we can—and must—do. A new commuter program is already here: UT employees can get use of a van and, by riding to work together, drastically reduce commuting costs. The KAT bus system offers great rates. And by signing up online with the SmartTrips program, employees (and students) can find carpools.

I urge you to wholeheartedly embrace Switch Your Thinking. It is the next big step towards dramatically reducing UT’s energy bills, and it places the flagship university squarely where it ought to be on this issue—out in front.