Yale faculty and alumni turned up the heat Thursday at a conference targeting reform of the University’s energy-efficient and environmentally friendly practices.
Yale faculty and alumni recommended strategies for environmental sustainability at “The Greening of Yale and Beyond” Symposium, held Thursday at Battell Chapel. Conference participants came together to present a series of lectures outlining Yale’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and implement environmentally sustainable practices.
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University President Richard Levin began the symposium with a lecture about the steps the administration is taking to promote the “greening” of Yale, including the Yale Sustainable Food Project, reductions in energy used in the residential colleges and automated controls for the heating, air conditioning and lighting in University buildings.
“Our aspiration is to have sustainable growth,” Levin said in his address.
Yale has been actively analyzing and enhancing University policy to make it more environmentally sustainable since a group of students in 1999 drafted a report examining Yale’s environmental practices, which they presented to the administration.
Levin said he thinks universities will play a large role in preventing further greenhouse gas emissions. This goal will be achieved not only by advancing the science of climate change and new technologies, but also by setting the standard for large organizations to successfully operate under sustainable policies.
Teaching students about the importance of environmental sustainability and how to achieve such consumption benchmarks is an important part of Yale’s contribution to the future, Levin said.
After Levin, Paul Anastas, director of the Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, spoke about the Center’s recent initiatives related to sustainability on the molecular level, which has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Howard Berke ’76 lectured next about the innovations in solar power technology with which his company, Good Energies, has been involved. He said he thinks such technologies will become increasingly important for the global community.
“I think renewable energy is our future,” Berke said. “When some of the most profitable companies on the lists and the wealthiest man in China are involved in sustainable energy, I have to believe that things are changing very, very quickly.”
School of Architecture professor James Axley examined sustainability close to home with an evaluation of different Yale buildings’ energy efficiencies.
“Yale assumes a leadership position by example,” Axley said. “I’m going to hit below the belt on some of these buildings so we can look towards the future.”
Among the campus structures Axley discussed were Payne Whitney Gymnasium and the Malone Engineering Center. Although the Malone Center has been awarded the gold standard by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, Axley said many of the buildings contain structural inefficiencies.
“LEED alone is not enough,” Axley said. “We have to look for sustainable solutions.”
Marian Chertow of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies ended the symposium with a discussion of the benefits of environmentally conscious corporate leadership.
The audience at the event was made up mostly of professors, graduates and older members of the Yale community.
Those in attendance said that while they enjoyed the talk, it failed to attract students who were unaware of the issues discussed.
“I feel that in a lecture like that, they are preaching to the choir,” Andy Pels SOM ’09 said. “The people who were there are already involved in Yale sustainability.”
Kathy Peng ’09, Ezra Stiles College Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership coordinator, said she appreciates Yale’s efforts to educate the community and enact sustainable solutions.
“Going to one of these symposiums makes me so proud,” she said. “I’m glad our administration cares about these issues.”
Derek Briggs, director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, which presented the event, said he thinks the symposium played a valuable role in sustainability efforts by bringing environmental leaders together to discuss pressing concerns.
Yale was ranked in the top “15 Green Colleges and Universities” last month by Grist.org, an online environmental news magazine.