SOM leads sustainability efforts

The School of Management is spearheading sustainability initiatives in conjunction with the Divinity School and the Environment School.
The School of Management is spearheading sustainability initiatives in conjunction with the Divinity School and the Environment School. Photo by Sari Levy.

Last month, Rachel Mak SOM ’14 assembled a large display of Styrofoam containers on the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies campus — one example of a broader effort this semester to encourage sustainability among the Environment School, School of Management and Divinity School.

The three professional schools, which have been cooperating on sustainability initiatives since 2009, have used their physical proximity to each other to organize joint projects alongside independent ones aimed at increasing environmentally friendly practices on their campuses. Environment School and Divinity School students and administrators interviewed said SOM has led the others in its commitment to sustainability, adding that they hope to follow the lead of SOM.

“We have many students who aspire to become leaders in business or society around the globe, and they are very interested in how sustainability efforts should be integrated in their efforts,” said Richard Bascom, director of finance and administration at SOM.

Since 2009, SOM has decreased its paper use by 19 percent — a larger number than all other Yale professional schools — through measures that include uploading course materials electronically on Classesv2 and increasing the amount of paperless financial transactions, Bascom said. Each of Yale’s schools has pledged to decrease its paper use by 25 percent by the end of the 2012–’13 academic year.

Brendan Edgerton SOM ’15, the SOM sustainability strategy planner, said the school has also implemented a “coffee composting program” in its cafeteria in which students compost coffee grinds instead of throwing them away. Last year, the school organized over 20 “zero landfill” events — events at which everything used and consumed is composted or recycled, said Rachel Kagan SOM ’14, a member of the school’s student government and sustainability team. Kagan added that since SOM will move to a new building next year, students are currently discussing ideas for built-in eco-friendly features such as bike parking and student kitchen facilities.

Melissa Goodall, assistant director of the Yale Office of Sustainability, said the three schools involved in the sustainability efforts collaborate on initiatives when certain environmental issues apply generally, but each school has developed its own projects to increase environmentally friendly practices.

“Yale is more than a community — it is a set of subcultures — so it is natural that each dean has developed a sustainability vision tailored specifically to the priorities of his school,” she said.

Edgerton, who is a joint degree student with the Environment School, said SOM and the Environment School are organizing a “Spring Salvage” event next semester, in which students will be able to sell old kitchenware and furniture at low prices instead of throwing them away.

Divinity School Assistant Sustainability Coordinator Charles Graves DIV ’15 said the school is stepping up its sustainability efforts by launching a new website that suggests environmentally friendly practices to the Divinity School community. In a new initiative spearheaded by Mak, he said, the school purchased eco-friendly food containers from SOM’s environmental groups to be resold to members of the Divinity School community in the school’s dining hall. Graves added that the Divinity School dining hall switched from using paper plates and bowls to reusable utensils earlier this month.

Meanwhile, students within the Law School have been organizing sustainability projects independently of other professional schools.

Halley Epstein LAW ’14, who leads the Yale Environmental Law Association at the Law School, said the association has helped encourage the Law School dining hall to start composting and that it also plans to run an educational campaign to raise awareness about composting options on campus. She added that she thinks the Law School community is open to collaborating with other schools on environmental initiatives.

President of the Graduate and Professional Schools Senate Emily Stoops GRD ’13 said the Senate has not addressed sustainable practices specifically but it “might want to address [them] more in the future.”

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