This August, freshmen belonging to Berkeley, Calhoun, Pierson and Trumbull Colleges arrived on campus to find permanent furniture in their common rooms within Bingham and Lanman-Wright Halls.
The move to provide furniture in these Old Campus dormitories is part of a pilot program aimed at reducing furniture waste by providing students with Yale-owned reusable furniture, according to Amber Garrard, education and outreach manager for the Yale Office of Sustainability. Although Yale Facilities provides students with basic furniture for individual use, including a bed and a desk, in past years, common rooms have generally been left unfurnished.
The pilot program is the first phase of a three-year project to provide furniture in all dormitory common rooms on Old Campus by summer 2018, according to Garrard. The University will also provide common room furniture to the two new residential colleges, which are expected to open in 2017.
The initiative, which was jointly developed by the Yale Office of Facilities and the Yale Office of Sustainability, ensures that common rooms in Lanman-Wright and Bingham Halls are furnished with sofas, chairs and coffee tables.
“Student groups and Heads of Colleges wanted to have pre-furnished common rooms because this would alleviate the burden of students needing to buy common room furniture and reduce waste on campus,” Garrard said.
The pilot program also takes into account the environmental impact of the furniture’s manufacture: The furniture is free of the synthetic plastic, PVC, and made from recycled leather, according to the Yale Office of Sustainability. Additionally, all the wooden components are Greenguard-certified, indicating that their manufacture meets rigorous standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds into indoor air.
The undergraduate groups that campaigned for the program include the Sustainability Service Corps and the Yale Student Environmental Coalition. According to Sarah Brandt ’17, an SSC member, the Corps voiced its support for the initiative by drafting a letter several years ago that outlined how the program would benefit the Yale community and increase sustainability on Campus.
“I think if Yale students saw the sheer quantity of furniture thrown out at the end of the year, they would realize how problematic it is,” Brandt said. “But in the absence of awareness of that, it makes sense to tackle this issue by eliminating the ability to generate the waste in the first place.”
Last year, Spring Salvage, a waste diversion program aimed at reducing waste generated by undergraduates during move-out, collected over 14 tons of unwanted furniture, according to the Yale Office of Sustainability website.
Alexandra Golden ’17, also a member of the SSC, pointed out the initiative’s socioeconomic benefits, adding that incoming freshmen will no longer have to worry about buying furniture, which can be expensive.
“The benefits are twofold,” Golden said. “From an environmental aspect you are decreasing waste, which I think is great. But there is also a socioeconomic benefit since the financial burden on incoming freshmen is being reduced.”
Golden added that the program eases the transition into college life for freshmen, adding that incoming students will not have to worry about something as basic as where they are going to sit when they enter their rooms.
Lukas Burger ’20, a freshman in Calhoun College, praised the new program. “It really facilitated the transition from living with my parents to living here in college,” Burger said. “I didn’t have to worry about how I’m going to move a couch all the way to New Haven or have suitemates [whom I had] never met decide and pitch in [money] for the most basic furniture requirements.”