More than 40 percent of Yalies have finally agreed on one thing — they care about the environment.
In three nights of dining hall sign-ups, EcoPledge volunteers collected more than 2,200 signatures, out of an undergraduate student body of more than 5,200. Participants promise they will not work for companies that are on a list of environmentally unsound businesses.
“It’s sort of an escalating process, the companies get put on the list because there are specific elements of their environmental policy that we believe needs to change,” Co-coordinator Claire Brickell ’03 said. “BP Amoco is an example — we want them not to drill in the Arctic. I think this is really well-suited to Yale because students from Yale are really in high demand on the job market”
After a company is put on the list, Brickell said, EcoPledge negotiates with the company to work out a better environmental policy. If the company is unresponsive to EcoPledge’s requests, then EcoPledge asks its supporters to boycott the company — sometimes through employment boycotts, sometimes through product boycotts.
Co-coordinator Billy Parish ’04 said he thinks Yale had the second highest percentage of signatures, behind Clark University in Massachusetts. The percentage is not exact because graduate students, dining hall staff and others also signed the pledge, he said.
Brickell said she worked with an environmental organization called Free the Planet over the summer, where she first learned about EcoPledge. She said she came back to Yale this fall with the goal of educating students about the environment.
“I believe that there are more than 100 schools that are working on EcoPledge,” said Jennifer Tucker of Free the Planet in an e-mail. “Depending on the college, students can generate hundred to thousands of pledges, but having 40 percent of the student body pledge takes a lot of work, and Yale is only one of a few schools that has achieved that.”
Parish recruited approximately 80 students, many of them from the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, to set up tables in the dining halls Monday, Wednesday and Thursday night of the week before Thanksgiving break.
Brickell said the only company currently on the boycott list is British Petroleum/Amoco. In January, BP/Amoco Vice President John Gore sent a letter to EcoPledge, explaining that it did not wish to rule out drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Congress may soon permit.
Other companies that EcoPledge is in negotiations with include Sprint — EcoPledge wants Sprint to print its bills on recycled paper — and Staples, which uses “virgin wood” to make many of their supplies.
According to the EcoPledge Web site, the organization enjoyed an important success in 1999, when Ford and General Motors pulled out of the Global Climate Commission, a industry group that opposed anti-global warming legislation.
Members of YSEC and EcoPledge volunteers are meeting tonight to discuss future plans. Brickell said one possibility is to organize a protest at the Staples on Whalley Avenue. Parish said he would like to get more signatures, possibly targeting students who live off campus and would not have seen the dining hall drive.
Another plan, Parish said, is for EcoPledge is to bring volunteers to recruitment meetings for targeted companies with stacks of resumes of desirable students who have signed the pledge.
“We’re going to go to the sessions and bring a bunch of EcoPledge people and just sort of ask questions about their environmental policies to educate people who might work for them and just sort of put pressure on these companies to let them know it potentially influences their [desire] to work,” Parish said.