Powering Down for Winter or Spring Break

Before leaving campus for winter break, spring break, and other holidays throughout the year, follow these simple tips to save energy in your office, common areas, labs, residential rooms and spaces.

Image of beach with text "your electronics need a vacation too"Winter Energy Setback 2020

Each year, your participation in Cornell’s Winter Energy Shutdown avoids powering unused electronics, heating unoccupied buildings, and lighting empty offices.

Whether you are working on campus or remotely, we encourage you to “power down” your workspaces over winter break.  If you are currently working on campus, please join your colleagues in saving energy within your offices, labs, and common areas before you leave campus to help reduce costs and save energy this year.

This collective action saves a huge amount of energy on campus, minimizes the use of natural resources, and reduces our university’s carbon emissions – critical steps toward our carbon neutral campus goal by 2035.

Read the 2020 Letter

2020 Winter Setback Letter from Rick Burgess, Vice President, Facilities & Campus Services

Key actions to take before you leave for break:

  • Turn off power strips and unplug any electronics plugged directly into the wall.
    Many devices use electricity even when “turned off,” including TVs, printers, chargers, copiers, coffee makers, microwaves, lamps, and space heaters. 

  • Completely close fume hood sashes in labs.
    Lab managers should look for additional guidance in the coming days on how to hibernate fume hoods not in use during reduced research schedules.  Fume hoods are responsible for 50% of building energy use on campus.

  • Switch off all lights 

  • Shut all windows & shades

  • Close all interior and exterior doors

  • Shutdown non-essential equipment (e.g. printers, freezers, growth chambers, etc.) 

  • Check thermostat, and if easily adjustable, turn down to 64F (but not off) for winter, or 75F for summer

  • Report facilities issues (e.g. leaky faucets, broken windows, overly hot/cold rooms) 

  • Remind colleagues and students to take these actions before they leave, too - send them this link! or share these steps on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram 


Colleges and units directly benefit from avoided energy costs, so powering down makes an impact on your college/unit while improving overall campus sustainability.

And just imagine the social, economic, environmental, and academic benefits that are possible when we engage in sustainable behavior year-round. We will save the campus $1.4 million and over 3,500 tons of carbon through major energy upgrade projects completed this year, and Cornell is once again the #1 Ivy for sustainability in the nation and the only Ivy to earn STARS Platinum because of your efforts.  

Program Savings

Winter Setback 2019:  1.2 million kWh of electricity and $100,000  saved during the shutdown, equivalent to eliminating the energy use of 98 homes’ energy use for one year, growing 14,000 trees, switching 32,200 light bulbs to LEDs, or charging 108,200,000 smartphones. The impact is huge – and needed as much now as in years past.

Your actions make a difference! Thank you for your continued efforts to save energy, reduce carbon emissions, and adopt sustainable practices. We can’t do it without you!