STEP dryer initiative off to slow start


Most Yalies wouldn’t think twice before putting a load of wet laundry in the dryer. But Yale’s Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership is asking students to reconsider byintroducing laundrydrying racksto Silliman College and selling them for less than $10 in Pierson College.

This is just one of severalinitiatives STEP is pursuing this semester,as it continues its push for trayless dining. But where the Yale College-wide trayless dining campaign was more high-profile,involving posters and coordinated trayless dining nights in dining halls,STEP’sdryer project and some of itsindividual residential college projects have been more low-key.

“Nobody wants to be told what to do or how they should live their life,” said Lily Twining ’11, a STEP coordinator in Pierson College. “Especially when it comes to mundane things like taking out recycling or turning out lights.”

STEP’s past efforts have been met with positive results, said STEP co-director Olivia Rogan ’12. She pointed to the results of randomized audits in the residential colleges last spring, which found that more that 40 percent of students were dining without trays on regular days. Almost 90 percent of students went without trays on advertised trayless dinner nights.

Other STEP initiatives this semester include introducing universal waste disposal units so students do not have to sort recycling from garbage.

But so far, STEP’s campaign to reduce dryer use has been stymied by a lack of student awareness about energy consumption. Rogan said that while most students donot realize it, changing a washing machine’s settings or reducing the size of a dryer load can have a much larger impact on the environment than most other sustainable behavior changes. Plans are in the works to expand the project to Davenport College, but Twining said the decision to allow drying racks in laundry rooms falls to individual college facilty managers.

One of Branford College’s STEP coordinators, Rachel Shaffer ’12, said she thinks creativity is the key to teaching students about environmentalism. The most successful way of attracting attention to the “Go Trayless” campaign in Branford was a poster campaign featuring members of the college’s party suite, the God Quad, she said. Lauren Phillips ’12, a Silliman STEP coordinator, said she has found studybreaks and other social events to be useful in reaching new people.

Still, not all of STEP’s successes can be attributed to their campaigns. Leland Whitehouse ’14 said that while he routinely dined without a tray, he had only vaguely heard of STEP and did not know what their mission was.dat I can for the environment, but it comes more from my personal experience than from the advice of anyone here at Yale,” he said.

Likewise, Max Jacobson ’13 and Jeremy Weltmer ’13 said that they go trayless out of personal preference and not for environmental reasons.

“Dining with trays impedes discourse and clutters the table,” Jacobson said.

Other students interviewed said they were aware of STEP initiatives, including their latest dryer-use-reduction project, though not all had taken part in them. Omar Njie ’13 said that he noticed the new drying racks in the Silliman laundry room as soon as he walked in for the first time this fall, but had not yet used them.

“I really like the work they do in creating options,” Njie said,“but student response to STEP is mixed: There are a lot of people who really support the work they do, and a lot of who ignore their efforts.”

In the end, Sheila McCrevan, STEP coordinator in the Yale Office of Sustainability, said the group’s aim is to educate students about the practical steps they can take to live life in an environmentally conscious manner.

“We are working toward generating a campuswide culture of sustainability, wherein environmental awareness is an integral part of the Yale experience,” McCrevan said.

Among the events STEP has planned this semester is Blackout, an Oct. 14 film screening on Old Campus designed to get people to switch off their lights. On Oct. 17, STEP will host the Eli Exchange clothes swap on Old Campus and on Oct. 22, they will throw Greenfest, an environmentallythemed celebration of the fall.

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