How stuffed toy penguins save energy at University of Copenhagen

Text by: Christian Østergaard

PenguinGreener behavior among students and staff has brought down energy consumption at University of Copenhagen by at least 2.5 %.  One of the secrets: A penguin with an impeccable environmental conscience.

Over the past five years, the Green Action Campaign at University of Copenhagen has promoted energy efficient behavior at the university and contributed significantly to the university’s reduction in CO2 emissions.

A small but important part of the campaign was a friendly yet resolute stuffed toy penguin, determined to reduce energy waste in offices and laboratories around campus. The penguins were distributed among the university’s 250 Green Ambassadors, who volunteer to work for more sustainable behavior among their coworkers.

The penguins travel from desk to desk, cheerfully reminding forgetful coworkers of good energy habits such as turning off screens while having lunch or turning off heaters when the windows are open. Each time the penguin has moved onto a new desk, the owner of the desk is tasked with passing on the reminder to someone else who has forgotten about conserving energy in the workplace.

The little, stuffed animal is meant as a nudge, a cheerful reminder, that encourages greener behavior without the finger-wagging and negativity often associated with this kind of campaigns.

University of Copenhagen’s Green Action Campaigns, including the penguin initiative, are estimated to be responsible for 13 % of the saved energy at the university. Read more about the energy savings at UCPH here:


Stuffed penguin presented alongside 20 green projects

Along with the rest of the Green Action campaign concept, the energy penguin participated in the recent green behavior conference “Communicating the obvious” in Copenhagen.

This conference, initiated by the EU Commission, served as a venue for sharing experiences among the around 20 participating Danish projects.

Representing a wide variety of projects, ranging from grass root food waste projects to municipality climate action campaigns the conference and its supporting website serve as a comprehensive catalogue of ideas for promoting green behavior. See more at the conference website

At University of Copenhagen the energy penguin is likely to be joined by similar “nudging” initiatives in future campaigns. Future green behavior initiatives are likely to include garbage sorting efforts and a more committing role of the green ambassadors at the university who are all currently volunteers.

For more examples of “Green Nudges” see the Danish blog INudgeYou  or the Norwegian website

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