It may not be the Associated Press coaches’ poll, but Yale Athletics was recently ranked alongside sports powerhouses Oregon, Florida and Ohio State University in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s August report “Collegiate Game Changers: How Campus Sport is Going Green.”
In the report, Yale was showcased as one of 10 case studies that represented leaders in sustainability among the major athletic conferences. Report author Alice Henly ’10 emphasized the involvement of Yale student-athletes in promoting sustainability.
“I think the distinguishing factor is the student-athlete focus and their leadership and ownership of the program,” Henly said.
That leadership has been manifested through Bulldog Sustainability, a program that attempts to cultivate environmental and social consciousness within the Yale Athletics Department. Four students were hired by the department and the Office of Sustainability in 2008, and the program has now grown to include 12 graduate and undergraduate students. The students, both varsity and club athletes, design and implement sustainability and greening programs within the athletics department and among individual teams.
One of these programs is the Green Athletics Team Certification, the first such collegiate athletics program in the country. In 2011, Bulldog Sustainability created a checklist to help teams look at making sustainable choices in everything from travel to practice and team events. Teams must complete at least 18 “actions” in order to receive recognition as a Green Athletics-certified team. According to the report, 12 varsity teams comprising a total of 269 student-athletes have received the Green Athletics certification. Senior Associate Athletic Director and Bulldog Sustainability’s lead staff liaison Barbara Chesler also noted that student athletes have been the impetus for Yale’s sustainability prowess.
“Yale and Yale athletics really took a leadership role in being one of the first athletics programs to push this forward,” Chesler said. “And it’s driven by student-athletes; I think that’s the key. I’m honored for our students and our student-athletes.”
The progress that Yale has made in greening has also helped to keep Yale in the black. Sustainable practices and upgrades are projected to save Yale athletics more than $100,000 in 2013, according to Director of Energy Management Julie Paquette in the NRDC report.
In addition to the fiscal benefits that Yale gains from its green efforts, Bulldog Sustainability coordinator Diana Madson FES ’13 said that Yale’s inclusion in the report will give other sustainability advocates across Yale’s campus even more legitimacy.
“We’re coming from a sustainability angle but not everyone else is,” Madson said. “I think it adds some credibility when we work with higher-ups within Yale.”
Henly was already well acquainted with Yale’s sustainable practices before she wrote the report. She was a member of the Bulldog Sustainability team as an undergraduate at Yale, where she majored in political science with a concentration in environmental politics and policy before accepting a job with the NRDC after graduation.
“Alice is representative of what students who have a passion for something, in this case sustainability, can go on and do,” Chesler said. “I’m not at all surprised that Alice really was the initiator behind this whole report and the writer. She’s an extraordinary person and when she sets her mind on something, whether it is winning a national championship or championing sustainability, you’re going to see results.”
Henly represented Yale as a member of the women’s crew varsity eight-person boat that won national championships in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Correction: Sept. 11
A previous version of this article misstated the title of the report “Collegiate Game Changers: How Campus Sport is Going Green” as “College Game Changers: How Campus Sport is Going Green.” It also misstated the of the organization responsible for the report, the Natural Resources Defense Council, as the National Resources Defense Council.