Sustainability week raises awareness

The Yale Center for British Arts highlighted several pieces related to sustainability as part of Sustainability Week.
The Yale Center for British Arts highlighted several pieces related to sustainability as part of Sustainability Week. Photo by Alexandra Schmeling.

The student on Cross Campus Tuesday clad in plastic bags was not celebrating Halloween early. They were promoting environmental causes as part of a weeklong University effort to support sustainability.

“Celebrate Sustainability” week, which featured roughly 20 events from Monday to Saturday, aimed to teach the Yale community more about sustainability on campus and around the world. The Yale Office of Sustainability organized events ranging from a recycling demonstration to talks about climate change that reflected initiatives outlined in the 2013–2016 Yale Sustainability Strategic Plan launched Wednesday.

“It’s been a really good opportunity for our staff members, students [and] anyone to get involved and think about sustainability,” said Amber Gerrard, education and outreach program manager of the Office of Sustainability.

One of the most visible events on campus was the Tuesday morning “Sustainability Pledge,” during which a member of the student environmental group Sustainability Service Corp clad in a giant costume made entirely of plastic bags encouraged students on Cross Campus to write a promise to themselves relating to sustainability. Other high-visibility events on campus included the Wednesday Fall Harvest Market at Beinecke Plaza, and a tour of Kroon Hall led by graduate students.

On Wednesday afternoon, University President Peter Salovey launched the Sustainability Strategic Plan. The events of each day of sustainability week reflect one of the five major categories of the plan: energy and greenhouse gas emissions, natural and built environment, food and well-being, materials management and sustainability leadership. Speeches at the event by campus environmental administrators discussed Yale as a global leader in campus sustainability efforts through its implementation of the Sustainability Plan.

“[The] event was definitely a capstone,” Gerrard said. “[It was] a really successful event — a really great mix of staff and faculty and key leaders around campus who were talking about the future of sustainability. So that was really exciting.”

On Wednesday evening, the Office of Facilities invited the public to observe a monthly energy audit at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Yale Director of Energy Management Julie Paquette said Celebrate Sustainability week and the launch of the strategic plan were two primary reasons for a new partnership between the Office of Sustainability and the Office of Facilities.

While Celebrate Sustainability week is traditionally held in the spring in conjunction with Earth Day, Gerrard said organizers decided to move it to the fall in order to coincide with the launch of the strategic plan and in an effort to convey sustainable values to new students early in their Yale careers.

Gerrard said that she hopes sustainability weeks in future years feature even more events and spread awareness of the week even more broadly in the community by holding a large event each day of the week in a prominent spot on campus. “Celebrate Sustainability” week concluded with Yale Employee Day at the Yale Bowl on Saturday.

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