Yale Blue Green is a diverse hub connecting alums with environmental interests
Lauren Graham ’13 M.E.M. has always been interested in hearing from diverse voices and laying the groundwork for necessary – and even difficult – conversations. As a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Graham was one of just three black students. While she found the graduate school environment welcoming, she said, she was also conscious of the disparity between the face of the environmental movement and the faces of those most impacted by pollution and climate change.
She remains committed to addressing topics around environmental justice and racism as the chair of Yale Blue Green (YBG), an alumni shared interest group that is dedicated to supporting sustainability initiatives both on and off campus, providing opportunities for members to network and learn, and giving alumni, students and staff with an interest in environmental issues a place to find each other across schools, disciplines and generations.
“I’m proud that Yale Blue Green is reflecting the true diversity of the environmental movement,” Graham says, adding, “We’re a home and a hub for people plugging in at different levels. It’s open to anyone with even a passing interest in the environment, so we get a really nice cross-section of people representing ‘one Yale.’”
In honor of Earth Day this past weekend, the group brought New York City-area alums together to garden and plant in the East River Park with the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Looking ahead, YBG is promoting events around the country to tie in with Yale Day of Service on May 12, including habitat restoration in Muir Beach, California; composting and pruning in New Haven’s Yale Myers Forest Orchard; weeding and planting in Hawaii’s Honokowai Valley; and phone banking and canvassing for the Environmental Voter Project in Boston, to name just a few. The full list of environmental projects happening around Yale Day of Service can be found here.
Extending these city-centric “branches” has been a key focus of the group’s leadership. “We’re thinking about ways to build communities,” says Graham. The group currently has branches in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., with plans to add San Francisco and London by late fall.
David Bergman, ’78 B.A., an architect specializing in sustainable design who wrote “Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide” (Princeton Architectural Press), is leading the New York City chapter of YBG. “Knowing the diversity of people coming out of Yale, I was interested in connecting people locally who are involved in all aspects of environmental policy, health, finances, and other industries,” he says. “Yale being Yale, people are doing really interesting things – I want to see what we can achieve.”
The NYC chapter has hosted alumni talks and tours, including a tour of the Climate Museum’s exhibit at Parson’s School of Design, where Bergman teaches — which illustrates the effects of climate change through expert talks and dramatic exhibitions. The museum’s founder and director is Miranda Massie ’91 M.A., who is in the process of launching a campaign for a permanent home for the museum.
YBG got its start seven years ago when Darcy Pollack ’87 B.A. was looking for a way to connect “all things green” at Yale. “Yale’s programs and efforts in sustainability are pretty incredible,” says Pollack, an imagineer at Walt Disney and member of the Yale Development Council. “A big effort in the early days was simply to understand what ‘green’ stuff was happening at Yale and to then share that out.”
Today, the group is closely aligned with the university’s Office of Sustainability and has featured speakers from the Yale Office of Facilities and other campus organizations to share updates on sustainability efforts during monthly conference calls. As a global institution, “What Yale does around environmental issues is critical,” Graham says. “It matters to motivate Yalies to plug in, and to support alumni who are doing great work.”