A recent collaboration between the Yale Sustainability Office, the Yale Sustainable Food Project, Yale Recycling and Yale Catering will give community members a chance to take “green” matters into their own hands — and receive awards for it.
The four organizations have developed a set of practical advice, called Sustainable Event Guidelines, for campus event organizers to reduce the environmental impact of the events they hold, which include suggestions on the sustainable management of energy, transportation, waste, materials and food. Depending on the number of guidelines to which they adhere, events will be awarded an official bronze, silver or gold sustainability rating and will be featured on the Office of Sustainability Web site.
The news comes at a time of rising environmental awareness on campus, evidenced by students and administration alike, and follows University President Richard Levin’s recent announcement that Yale has reduced it carbon emissions by 17 percent since launching a plan in 2005 to halve its emissions over the next 15 years. Representatives from the Yale Sustainable Food Project said the project furthers this vision by making action feasible at the individual level.
The guidelines are an incentive to make sustainability “part of the culture” on campus, explained Melina Shannon-Dipietro, director of the YSFP.
“People are very mindful now about Yale’s overall commitment to sustainability,” said Bob Ferretti, outreach and education manager of the Office of Sustainability. “This is a way to help them feel empowered and contribute in their own way.”
The project was launched as a response to the Yale community’s desire to incorporate sustainability into its campus events, Ferretti said. For several years, community members looking to put together events have bombarded the YSFP with requests for sustainable food, and many have consulted Yale Recycling and the Office of Sustainability on the guidelines for proper waste disposal and other sustainable practices, Shannon-Dipietro said.
Sustainable Event Guidelines was a way to synthesize these individual recommendations and give them “some teeth” — much like the LEED certification system, but on a voluntary basis, Ferretti said.
“The need was really community-driven,” he said. “We needed a common set of principles that would allow us to evaluate events against each other and [it] was a way of making that more information more readily accessible.”
Events, which often involve food and transportation, do their fair share of energy guzzling, Anastatia Curley, Communications Coordinator of the YSFP said.
Statistics that show that 17 percent of the nation’s energy use is linked to food choices, second only to vehicular use. For this reason, decisions like offering sustainable menus and virtual conferencing can do more than people realize to reduce the negative environmental impact such gatherings can have, she said.
For example, in 2003, Yale dining halls’ decisions to begin serving grass-fed burgers reduced Yale’s carbon footprint by a quarter of a million pounds, Shannon-Pietro said. Individuals action all adds up, she added: If every American ate one local and organic meal per week, the nation would consume 1.1 million fewer barrels of oil each week, a formidable dent in the 400 gallons of oil per person the U.S. food system consumes per year.
“Yale is the size of a small city, and its alumni network reaches around the world,” she said. “We can have a huge impact.”
Sustainable Event Guidelines offers tips called action items — which include suggestions like partnering with a local food bank or soup kitchen to donate leftovers and using 100-percent-paperless advertising. Events, which must serve sustainable food to qualify, receive gold ratings for implementing eight or more Action items, silver for six or more and bronze for four or more.