New SOM team promotes sustainability

Students at the School of Management are going green.

The new SOM Student Sustainability Team, which formed this fall, aims to assist the SOM community with environmentally friendly practices that range from reducing electricity use in buildings to running “zero-landfill” events. Though SOM staff have promoted sustainability in the past, members of the group said the school’s first student-run effort will not only raise campus awareness about sustainability but also allow students to shape and implement green initiatives that the rest of the University could later adopt.

“I would say that the sustainability team at SOM is critical in establishing a culture of sustainability, and as we send tomorrow’s business leaders out into the world we want them to have the expectation that it’s just an intrinsic part of a corporate culture,” said Melissa Goodall, assistant director of the Yale Office of Sustainability, which oversees the University’s green initiatives.

Goodall, whose office helped coordinate the new SOM team, said the sustainability group developed as part of a University-wide push for sustainable practices at the SOM, the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. She added that this team differs from the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership, or STEP, in that it focuses not only on peer education but also on creating and implementing new strategies designed by SOM students.

Justin Lindenmayer SOM ’13 FES ’13, the team’s leader, said sustainable initiatives are not new to the SOM. Staff have led green projects in the past, he said, at one point establishing “pen pails” that collected old and broken pens from professors and recycled the materials for use in backpacks and other items.

Though those previous efforts were initiated by staff members, Lindenmayer said the sustainability team aims to increase student involvement in sustainable practices.

“While the SOM has been working on environmental sustainability initiatives for a number of years, it hopes that the launch of this team will institutionalize sustainability at the school and will facilitate even greater collaboration between students and staff,” he said.

On Monday and Tuesday, the SOM ran two catered events without producing any nonrecyclable or noncompostable waste as part of the sustainability team’s pilot project to reduce overall waste at SOM functions. Successfully limiting waste at those events involved finding caterers who provided recyclable or compostable plates, cups and utensils, Lindenmayer said, adding that the two events met their zero-landfill goals.

The team, in collaboration with similar teams at the Divinity and Forestry Schools, plans to publish a guide on sustainable catering for events, Lindenmayer said, as part of an effort to bring projects such as the zero-landfill initiative to the greater Yale community.

“The way the professional school teams are working is that they are a lot more empowered to work on the operational side of things, and so they are literally getting in there and talking to the facilities managers,” Goodall said.

Sarah Short SOM ’13 and Erin Solano SOM ’12, who are part of the new team, said the theme of sustainability is important to a business school education.

Short said she hopes students who follow more sustainable practices in the SOM will continue those environmentally friendly practices in their future careers and workplaces.

“It’s not that difficult to know to separate your recycling and know to turn off the lights when you leave the room,” she said. “I hope we can show our classmates that that’s not too big of a hurdle to overcome.”

The SOM team formed to help meet a goal announced by University President Richard Levin in 2005: reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 57 percent of their 2005 levels by 2020.

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