Yale’s sustainability initiatives received national recognition once again this week when KIWI Magazine named the University one of the top 75 sustainable schools in the country.
The accolade came in the family-lifestyle magazine’s “Green College Report,” which was launched online Wednesday. The issue of KIWI announcing the report hit newsstands Tuesday. Yale sustainability leaders said reports such as this one confirm Yale’s place as a leader in sustainability, but they added that the school still has a lot of work to do.
KIWI Editorial Director Sara Gragnolati said Yale was chosen because of its three “standout” programs, including the Yale Sustainable Food Project, the Energy Task Force and Yale Environment 360, an online magazine published by the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
“We really just wanted to celebrate the collective commitment of universities and colleges across the country,” Gragnolati said.
KIWI compiled the list based on online applications from schools, other media reports and discussions with organizations such as the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, Gragnolati said. The magazine does not rank the 75 schools.
Yale’s efforts to make its campus green have also been recognized by other institutions, including Kaplan’s 2009 College Guide, the Princeton Review and the Sierra Club, according to the Yale Office of Sustainability’s Web site.
“It provides a benchmarking for how we are doing in relation to other institutions,” she said.
Other Ivy League schools on the list include Harvard and Cornell universities.
Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn said he does not know of any other school that has a similar publication.
“We are looking and reaching beyond the Yale community,” he said.
Yale Environment 360 does not report on the University but is instead an outlet for national discussion and expert reporting on environmental issues.
One of the reasons Yale stands out, Director of the Office of Sustainability Julie Newman said, is that at Yale there is an actual office devoted to sustainability with four full-time staff members and 16 paid student employees, which Newman described as “very unique.”
Cornell also has an Environmental Compliance and Sustainability Office, and Harvard has a Green Campus Initiative. Brown University has an environmental program called “Brown is Green.”
Despite the recognition Yale’s programs have received as of late, Office of Sustainability Education and Outreach Manager Robert Ferretti said the program has to be wary of such accolades.
“You have to look at the criteria the external sources or bodies are using to evaluate schools because there are definitely schools doing great things that may not have the stamina or prestige that Yale has,” he said.
KIWI looked into how environmental policies are interwoven with the school’s curricula and daily life, Gragnolati said.
Kate Gasner ’09, one of the student directors of the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership, said she doubts the University has fully integrated sustainability into student life.
“The accolades and recognitions are very important, especially in inspiring some momentum on campus, giving proper people pats on the back and making sure we’re still focused and inspired to keep improving,” she said. “That said, I’m not convinced the student body has earned the awards and that’s what [STEP works] toward.”
Gasner noted that the University’s initiatives were started largely by the administration and University President Richard Levin, including the greenhouse-gas goals and green cleaning programs. She said she would be interested in seeing Yale’s results based on criteria that only judged the student body.
Melina Shannon-DiPietro, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, said the awards are “flattering.”
“It’s a great endorsement, but we have lots of work ahead of us,” she said.