Campus community invited to join together to ‘Celebrate Sustainability’

An overview of Yale University's current sustainability programs and the 2013-2016 strategic plan for increasing sustainability at Yale.
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Members of the campus community are invited to discover how the university has been progressing toward becoming a “greener” campus during “Celebrate Sustainability,” a week-long series of events taking place Oct. 6-10.

The celebration, which this year has as its theme “Empowering Change on Campus and in the Community,” provides Yale staff and students with opportunities to learn about the successes, challenges, and innovations of sustainability at Yale as they take part in activities, attend talks, and visit different campus sites and landscapes.

According to the event organizers, “Celebrate Sustainability” will inspire discussion about the following questions: How can groups around campus be empowered with sustainability knowledge to act and lead in their respective communities? What are Yale’s greatest challenges trying to work toward a more sustainable future? What roles do innovation and participation play in sustainability at Yale? How can sustainability initiatives at Yale positively impact the New Haven community?

The celebration of sustainability coincides with the release the 2014 Yale Sustainability Strategic Plan Progress Report, which provides a snapshot of the university’s advancements toward achieving the goals set in the three-year Yale Sustainability Strategic Plan that President Peter Salovey announced last year.

“This week of events is a great opportunity for the entire Yale community to explore sustainability across a variety of venues, disciplines, and populations,” says Virginia Chapman, director of sustainability at Yale. “Activities will take place in many contexts from art galleries to laboratories, from residential colleges to power plants, and will engage faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates across many fields of study from the fine arts to engineering to humanities. 

“These events highlight and reflect the progress towards commitments in the current strategic plan described in the first year progress report,” she adds. “For example, the success of our Professional School Action Plans targeting, among other things, waste reduction and reuse is described in the 2014 Progress Report and is reflected at the exhibit at the Green Hall Gallery hosted by the Yale School of Art: “The End of the World (As We Know It ),”  featuring art made using recycled materials. In addition, the growth of our campus storm water mitigation efforts highlighted in the Progress Report will be reflected at the celebratory “downspout disconnection” event at the newly installed Sage Hall rain garden.”

Highlights of “Celebrate Sustainability” include:

• self-guided Sustainability Walking Tours as well as guided tours of the campus power plants;

• meditation and yoga sessions in campus green spaces, including one of its new urban meadows;

• a tree planting to honor staff members celebrating milestone anniversaries;

• a panel discussion about the challenges facing local seafood with James Beard award winner Paul Greenberg; Bren Smith, executive director of GreenWave; Mark Bomford, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Program; and Niza Dorry of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance;

• a screening of the internationally acclaimed film “Waste Land,” about how garbage “pickers” rediscover their dignity when an artist uses trash to bring their portraits to life;

 • a class session — open to all — for the undergraduate seminar “Climate Change and the Media” taught by writer and producer Paul Lussler, president of Me2U Media. This class will focus on the topic “The Climate Wars Narrative (Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick)”;

• a cooking demonstration by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman;

• a Yale Farm workday;

•  a bird observation walk around the campus;

• a conversation about “How to Start a Green Team”;

• an exhibition of art made from recycled materials by members of the Yale community

In addition, the Office of Sustainability will hold a social media photo context, whereby members of the Yale community can promote sustainability on and off campus by Tweeting and/or Instagramming photos and/or selfies @YaleSustain with the hashtag #YSustain while attending events and/or acting sustainably throughout the week.

A complete schedule of “Celebrate Sustainability” events can be found on the website.

Yale’s sustainability initiative

In 2005, Yale set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its two power plants and purchased electricity 43% below its 2005 levels by 2020. Yale launched its first Sustainability Strategic Plan in 2010, and with the support and commitment of every sector of campus, the university achieved a 16% reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions; a 24% reduction in municipal solid waste; a 28% recycling rate; the composting of 95% of dining hall food; 37% of dining hall food meeting one of the four sustainable food criteria; and 100% of new campus construction and major renovations earning at least Leadership in Energy & Environmental (LEED) Gold certification. Other advancements include green purchasing guidelines.

The second Sustainability Strategic Plan for 2013 to 2016 builds on these and other successes and expands goals related to developing best practices, using resources wisely, and securing the ecological and environmental future of the campus. The second plan also includes new goals in the areas of storm water and water management; campus planning, and sustainable transportation. President Peter Salovey recently announced a new initiative, the Energy Solutions Fund, a $100,000 investment by Yale dedicated to student-inspired and proposed projects that improve sustainability on campus. An information session for students to learn about the fund will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 3-4 p.m. at a location to be announced.

Read recent stories about just some of the campus sustainability initiatives: urban meadows, alternative fuel vehicles,  and a rain garden outside of Sage Hall. To subscribe to the Office of Sustainability’s monthly newsletter, visit here.

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