Groups hoping to make the University a little “greener” and more environmentally sustainable got a boost late last week when the provost’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Management (ACEM) announced the projects receiving grants from the Yale Green Fund.

The Green Fund, which was established by the provost’s office in the summer of 2002, has $1 million to spend on environmental goals over the course of three years. This year, the provost’s office approved allocation of just under $190,000 of Green Fund money to 10 groups seeking funding for various environmental projects, ranging from environmentally friendly laboratory renovations at the Yale Medical School to a student task force to increase environmental awareness on campus. The ACEM also announced that it will begin searching for a full-time sustainability coordinator, who will coordinate Green Fund projects as well as other activities in which the ACEM is involved.

The ACEM was established in the fall of 2001 by the provost’s office to advise the University on environmental issues. Forestry and Environmental Studies School professor Thomas Graedel, who was instrumental in forming the committee and is currently its chair, said its original mandate was to develop a series of environmental principles for the University.

“I think there was a general feeling in the provost’s office and perhaps more widely in the University that environmental performance was an important thing that had not been perhaps attended to or at least recognized as widely as it could have been,” Graedel said. “That was the impetus for it [ACEM].”

The ACEM is composed of four students and a mixture of faculty and staff members. The YCC recommends two undergraduates to serve on the committee for one-year terms, and there is one representative from the professional schools and one from the Graduate School.

In addition to advising the University, the ACEM is involved in selecting the projects that receive Green Fund grants. The committee meets monthly and also continues to work with the University on environmental issues.

“This year we [the ACEM] are working to develop environmental performance targets and timelines for the University,” Graedel said.

Spending the Green Fund

The Green Fund was created in response to the first series of requests from the committee, said Interim Assistant Provost for Science and Technology Bruce Carmichael. Bob Dincecco, a member of the ACEM, said there were significantly more funding proposals this year, the fund’s second year in existence.

Twenty seven proposals were submitted. The ACEM recommended 14 to the Provost’s Office for funding, and 10 were approved. They range from $40,000 for the purchase of three hybrid vehicles and nearly $38,000 for greater student involvement in environmental preservation to $10,000 for research greenhouse gas mitigation strategies to $5,000 for the improvement of student involvement in recycling.

The proposals, which were due by late November, are supposed to be between $2,500 and $50,000, and the projects are expected to last six to 12 months. If the proposals meet those basic requirements, they are given to one of the five subcommittees — communications, construction and land, purchasing, utilities and waste reduction and recycling — under the ACEM.

“Those subcommittees research the proposals in-depth and sometimes contact the people proposing,” said Elizabeth Martin FES ’04, who is Graedel’s graduate assistant and heavily involved with the administration of the Green Fund. “Then [the proposals] come to the larger committee. The committee decides as a whole which proposals should be funded. Then they send the recommendations to the Provost’s Office.”

The provost makes the final decision to approve Green Fund projects. Graedel says the committee considers long-term impact and feasibility when deciding which proposals to recommend.

“One thing we’re concerned with is whether it’s really likely to contribute to the long-term environmental performance of the University,” Graedel said. “We also want projects that — since they’re asking for some funds — look like they’re going to be reasonably well-managed and that they have made a realistic financial proposal.”

Funding from the Green Fund was crucial for projects such as the development of environmental standards for laboratory renovation at the Medical School, which was allocated $40,000.

“The Green Fund made it possible,” said Director of Project Management and Construction at the Medical School Virginia Chapman, who is overseeing the renovation. “If the Green Fund said no to it, we’d still want to do it, but I don’t know if I’d want to do it at this time.”

Chapman added that she thought her project would help make the Yale campus more environmentally sustainable. Carmichael also said this year’s funding recipients were a very good group of proposals that covered a wide range of inquiry.

Maintaining sustainability

In addition to approving funding for the 10 Green Fund proposals, the provost’s office also approved funding for a full-time staff position of sustainability coordinator for the University, Graedel said.

He added that the sustainability coordinator would be responsible for many of the tasks the committee has been working on, such as coordinating environmental programs on campus and developing new environmental objectives for the University, as well as helping to monitor Green Fund projects.

Graedel and three or four individuals from ACEM will make up a selection committee to choose a candidate for this position. Graedel said they hope to hire someone by summer and that a sustainability coordinator could add a lot to the University’s environmental program.

“I think one thing we haven’t been able to do as much as we would like is be aware of good things that are going on at other universities.” Graedel said. “There is an awful lot going on at other places that we could learn from and take advantage of, and I think a sustainability [coordinator] would help us do that.”