Yale College reunions go green

Yale College Reunions achieved platinum-level certification by the Yale Office of Sustainability for reducing the carbon footprint of its 2012 reunion weekends. The reunions, which took place May 24–27 and May 31–June 3, are the largest on-campus events ever to receive the highest level of green event certification.

In line with the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the Association of Yale Alumni, Yale College Reunion chairs, and the 25th reunion class, led by Darcy Troy-Pollack ’87, incorporated a number of environmentally friendly practices for the first time this year.

“Teamwork has always been the hallmark of reunions,” according to Karen Jahn, senior director for Yale College classes at the alumni association. “This year’s reunions of old and not-so-old ‘blues’ were the greenest we’ve ever had because of the cooperation of so many Yale departments and the enthusiasm of our alumni volunteers.”

Jahn notes that partnerships with Yale Dining, Yale Printing and Publishing, the Office of Sustainability, and Yale Blue  Green, one of the newest alumni groups, led to significant changes in promoting green transportation methods, using renewable products, ordering locally produced food, and disposing of waste carefully.

Over the course of the two reunion weekends, more than 6,900 Yale College alumni and guests returned to campus to reconnect with their classmates and to attend lunches, dinners, lectures, panels and outings. Alumni were able to take advantage of the composting and recycling stations available throughout the campus, walk to events, and use the water stations to greatly reduce the use of individual plastic water bottles. While guests were encouraged in advance to bring their favorite water bottle from home, the Classes of 1987, 1992 and 1997 also provided reusable water bottles for every person attending their reunion.

The operating schedules of the reunion and Yale biodiesel shuttles were adjusted to coincide with train and program schedules, and the use of paper was reduced. Where paper was used throughout the weekend, it was printed double-sided when possible on 100% recycled Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper. Additionally, more than 75% of all reunion attendees registered through the paperless online registration website.

Much of reunion activity centers around receptions and meals, where sustainability was very much on the menu. “This was an excellent opportunity for Yale Dining to showcase Yale’s sustainability in the area of food and hospitality,” says Rafi Taherian, executive director of Yale Dining. “All front-of-the-house aspects of food and service were planned and executed under ‘zero waste’ assumptions. In keeping with Yale’s educational mission, we also made sure to make ample information available about our sustainable initiatives at all events.”

Yale Dining sourced local, organic produce where possible, and ensured that all utensils and tableware for the more than 28,000 meals served were compostable, recyclable, or reusable. Menus used products from sustainable sources. “The icing on the cake was platinum-level certification and recognition by the Yale Office of Sustainability,” according to Taherian.

“The Yale College reunions have shown great institutional leadership,” says Julie Newman, director of the sustainability office. “Such high-profile events can have a potentially large impact, and this reunion success helps accelerate a trend now beginning to spread more broadly throughout the Yale community.“ Newman notes that platinum-level green event certification at the reunions demonstrates the value of cross-departmental partnerships for successful sustainability initiatives.

Established in 2005, the Yale University Office of Sustainability works to promote the tenets of sustainability at Yale, in New Haven, and around the global higher-education community. By facilitating the development and implementation of best practices and encouraging innovative collaboration, teaching, and scholarship on sustainable themes, its staff seeks to position Yale at the vanguard of the field and help make the environmental, social, health, and economic benefits of sustainability a reality on the campus and around the world.

The aim of the Green Event Certification is to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the voluntary, sustainable efforts that event organizers have taken to reduce the environmental, social, and financial costs of their event. Learn more about the Green Event Certification.

Learn more about the Association of Yale Alumni and Yale College Reunions.