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Joseph DiPietro standing by a door

For Joseph DiPietro, UT vice president for agriculture, being a good steward of the environment comes naturally.

“In environmental sciences, it’s natural for us to be active in conserving our resources,” he said. “The philosophy is right on with what we teach here and is relevant with what we’re facing today.”

DiPietro is encouraging others on the Agriculture campus to jump on board with the Switch your Thinking campaign, and he’s leading by example.

The Switch Your Thinking initiative is an effort by the UT Knoxville community to cut energy consumption by 10 percent during the 2009 fiscal year. It’s an ambitious goal, but such a cut in energy use could save the university more than $1 million.

Noticing a lack of weather-stripping on the exterior doors of Morgan Hall on the Agriculture campus, DiPietro contacted the facilities services department to see what could be done.

“You could see daylight coming through the doors,” DiPietro said. “We just needed to get the foyer doors functioning better in general. People were propping them open, but even when closed, we were losing a lot of heated and cooled air.”

Like many older university buildings, Morgan Hall is less energy efficient than newer buildings, such as the recently opened James A. Haslam II Business Building.

DiPietro encourages his colleagues to submit maintenance requests for doors or windows that aren’t properly sealed, or other areas where faculty and staff see room for improvement.

“We’re all heightening our awareness,” DiPietro said. “I’d just as soon be inundated with requests for maintenance and improvements. I want people to know that they can request the expertise of facilities services to help with these matters.”

DiPietro and his wife, Deborah, an environmental educator, keep the conservation efforts going at home. Although he jokes that their constant recycling is just an excuse to keep his old pickup truck, DiPietro’s commitment goes beyond hauling an occasional load to the nearest recycling center. The DiPietros make a point of composting kitchen scraps for use in their gardens, limiting their contribution to local landfills. They’ve installed tankless water heaters and a 95 percent-efficient furnace in their 30-year-old home.

Switch Your ThinkingDiPietro said switching his thinking at home led him to switching his thinking at work. Being a member of the Agriculture campus didn’t hurt, either.

“Switch Your Thinking has given us the opportunity to take a look at the things around us,” he says. “We have people on this campus who have dedicated their careers to getting the most out of the resources around us, such as conserving water usage in irrigation systems. This is right up our alley.”

Have you switched your thinking? Tell us what you do to save money and energy at UT and send your suggestions to the chancellor. To learn more about the ways you can Switch Your Thinking and read about more stories about campus efficiency, visit http://utk.edu/features/switch.