Even as this Indian summer comes to an end and the leaves fade to orange, red, yellow and brown, one person will be making sure Yale continues to get leaner and “greener.”
The University recently hired Julie Newman as a full-time sustainability director, following the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Environmental Management (ACEM). The provost’s office approved funding for Newman’s position last February, and Newman was hired at the beginning of July.
Newman will work with the ACEM and help facilitate improvements in the sustainability of the university’s operations. She described sustainability as balancing economic viability and ecosystem and human health in the short-term and the long-term.
“One thing I’ll be doing is developing a Yale sustainability indices that will provide a framework by which to prioritize projects and baseline information as well as measure progress which will hopefully lead to policy recommendations,” Newman said. “I will be working with various working groups affiliated both with ACEM as well as campus-wide groups that will look at energy, waste management and transportation this year.”
The ACEM, which has advised the University on environmental matters in the past, recommended the creation of the position of sustainability director to help monitor the Green Fund, assist with long-term planning, and reach out to the Yale community in the way that a committee could not, said ACEM chair and Forestry and Environmental Studies School professor Thomas Graedel.
“As the Green Fund activities have accelerated and as the University has become more committed to energy minimization and a lot of other activities, things have gotten beyond the point where a committee meeting once or twice a month can really handle everything,” Graedel said.
Newman said in her position she would not be dictating policy to make the University more sustainable nor providing a vision for environmental responsibility. The vision should come from the community, she said.
One of the ways Newman has begun to engage multiple parties in the process of making the University more sustainable is through the committee on energy policy she currently facilitates. This new ten-person committee — which is made up of students, staff and faculty — will look at ways to improve university energy consumption. Newman explained that she hopes to use consensus-making processes like the energy committee, which involve multiple facets of the campus, to improve the University’s environmental responsibility.
Newman, who reports to the provost’s office and the facilities department, spent the last seven years at the University of New Hampshire in a similar position. She helped to start its Office of Sustainability Programs while working on her Ph.D., which focused on sustainability processes in higher education.
Newman said she looks forward to working with people across all departments at the University and praised the support that she has received thus far in her position as sustainability director. She said this support indicated enthusiasm and foresight from both administrators and other members of the Yale community.
“I’m not coming in at the beginning of something,” Newman said. “There’s already a foundation of interest and support. My role is to come in and advance this effort and bring Yale to the forefront of this effort amongst higher education institutions.”