Every Friday night, 20 to 30 student volunteers gather at the HUB-Robeson Center on the University Park campus. They are assigned to targeted buildings, where they turn out lights that were left on in public areas such as classrooms, study rooms and lounges. The student teams turn off approximately 1,500 to 2,500 light bulbs each week. The ultimate goal of the project is to educate students about the importance of energy conservation through the simple action of turning off unneeded lights.
In 2006, student leaders from the Council of Lionhearts created this simple and highly effective volunteer program known as “Friday Night Lights Out” (FNLO). The students who lead this project organize volunteers to walk through campus buildings every Friday evening to turn off classroom lights. Without this effort, many classroom lights might be left on throughout the entire weekend. During the semester, student volunteers from many of Penn State's service clubs and organizations take turns at participating in this project. Penn State's Housing and Food Services donate pizzas and soft drinks to the student volunteers each week.
In the past two years, 907 students have participated and turned off 152,807 light bulbs saving the University 249,994 kilowatt hours of electricity.
The project was conceived after Paul Ruskin, an employee of Penn State's Office of Physical Plant, spoke to leaders of the Penn State “We Are” campaign and the Council of Lionhearts. Ruskin explained that he began turning off unused classroom lighting in 1965 when he was a Penn State student. He continued his environmental crusade when he returned to campus as an employee and still turns off lights in empty classrooms during his lunch hour. Over the years he estimates that he has turned off several million lights, helping to cut the University’s electric bill and reduce carbon emissions. A single act of conservation repeated many times can have meaningful consequences especially when hundreds of students actively adopt energy conservation as a social norm.
FNLO has become a popular on-campus service project and has received national publicity through the Weather Channel and the Big Ten Network. The Council of Lionhearts welcomes student organizations and other groups affiliated with the University to sign up and participate in the service project. Volunteers should contact the Council of LionHearts or sign up at volunteer.psu.edu.