Three years after committing to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, Yale was named one of the country’s “15 Green Colleges and Universities” by an online environmental news magazine.
The magazine, Grist.org, recognized the University for its goals to cut emissions by 10 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2020 and to tap into renewable energy sources. A number of students and administrators praised the University’s progress in the field of sustainability and said they think Yale is deserving of the honor.
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Yale placed 12th out of the 15 colleges and universities honored by Grist.org last month. The top spot went to College of the Atlantic in Maine.
Senior Energy Engineer Tom Downing said the University has made significant progress toward hitting its emissions goal, but still has far to go.
“So far so good,” Downing said. “We have lowered emissions while increasing the size of campus. That’s been tough since they are seemingly divergent paths.”
University engineers and administrators have been exploring the use of solar, wind and geothermal energy as substitutes for the current carbon-based sources, he said.
“We also have our eyes on the biofuel market,” Downing said. “And we have purchased some biofuel for our power plants, which is a first for us.”
Students have been working hard to make Yale “greener,” too. Organizations such as the Sustainable Food Project and the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership have stepped up their efforts to promote education in areas such as sustainable agriculture and energy consumption.
“It’s really nice that students have the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture and become more aware about the food they eat and where it comes from,” Eleanor Kenyon ’11, who participated in the Harvest pre-orientation trip sponsored by the YSFP, said in an e-mail. Harvest sends small groups of incoming freshmen to work on organic farms in Connecticut.
Some members of STEP said students have become more receptive to their projects, such as replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and placing recycling bins in every dorm, over the past few years.
“In the end, it’s impossible to force others to alter the way they live,” STEP Coordinator Benny Sachs ’09 said in an e-mail. “All we can do is arm ourselves and our peers with as much information as possible on the consequences of our lifestyle, and hope that most make sustainable choices.”
Sachs and co-Coordinator Kate Gasner ’09 said the organization also aims to bring attention to less obvious issues like the wastefulness of bottled water and of leaving electrical appliances on unnecessarily.
“In the beginning, people received these ideas coldly,” said Neal Parikh ’08, who has been a member of STEP since 2005. “They have come to accept them now, and the administration has financed all [compact flourescent lighting] projects, which has definitely been a big help.”
In October 2005, President Richard Levin challenged students to reduce energy consumption in residential colleges by 15 percent within three years. To date, consumption has decreased by about 12 percent. If the goal is met, Levin promised to offset energy consumption by investing in alternative energy sources, purchasing Renewable Energy certificates and implementing on- and off-site clean-energy projects.
In terms of transportation, the University plans to survey the community about their current behavior in the coming weeks and eventually hopes to create incentives for using public transportation, said Holly Parker, director of sustainable transportation systems. Yale has also increased the number of riders on its shuttles by adding routes and increasing the frequency of service based on rider feedback, Parker said.
The Grist.org article also praised Levin’s commitment to aid China in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and his public advocacy for sustainable practices.
“We are pleased to be recognized for our efforts and we want to continue to be in the vanguard among universities,” Levin said.