Though its colors are blue and yellow, Branford may be one of the greenest colleges at Yale.
Over the last year, Branford has made great strides towards environmental sustainability in its facilities, which include plans to install new water-efficient showerheads, change light bulbs and install motion sensors. Many of these initiatives, developed in conjunction with the Office of Facilities and the Yale Office of Sustainability, will be implemented over the summer. According to Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley, Branford is also the only residential college to collect reports on its usage of electricity and water and production of solid waste.
“We’re trying to figure out the things that are low-hanging fruits, easy structural changes that don’t impact anyone negatively,” said Branford Sustainability Coordinator Blake Hofmeister ’14. “It would be pretty foolish not to do these things — they make sense in terms of efficiency and the environment.”
Hofmeister said many of the current initiatives in Branford are designed to pay off in three to five years. Office of Sustainability Education and Outreach Coordinator Amber Garrard said because of its efforts, Branford could be used as a model of sustainability for other residential colleges.
New water-efficient showerheads were piloted in one entryway of Branford in the fall, Hofmeister said. If implemented in all Branford bathrooms, they could save 350 to 400 gallons of water per day by reducing the usage of water per minute. Though water-saving showerheads were tested in Branford in spring 2013 with negative student feedback, the current pilot showerheads consume slightly more water and do not have a noticeable effect on water pressure.
The new showerheads have been well-received, according to Hofmeister, and Bradley said they will most likely be installed in all suites over the summer.
Concurrent with Branford’s showerhead program, Garrard said the Office of Sustainability also piloted a similar water-efficient showerhead program in a few spaces on Yale’s campus in January as part of the University’s Sustainability Strategic Plan. These showerheads are a newer model with better water pressure than those used in Branford’s 2013 trial, she said. The Office of Facilities is currently testing five models and plans to install the new showerheads more broadly across campus in the future.
Bradley said Branford is also currently in the process of developing plans for the replacement of existing light bulbs with LED bulbs in the dining hall, common room, computer room and other common spaces in the college.
Branford receives monthly reports from the Office of Sustainability on the college’s electricity and water consumption, as well as the production of solid waste. Each month’s report includes data from the previous month, as well as monthly and yearly comparisons and targets. Biannually, Branford also receives a comprehensive report that includes heat use and looks at trends over the last six months.
Though the Office of Sustainability collects metrics on water, electricity and waste for most spaces on campus, Branford is the only college to have requested these metrics for its own analysis.
“[Branford has been] able to go through the data and come up with projects and look at how implementing those projects would affect these numbers,” Garrard said.
In February, Bradley said the Office of Facilities approached her with plans to pilot a program in fall 2014 that would provide all Branford common rooms with Yale-owned reusable furniture, in an effort to reduce the furniture waste generated at the end of every academic year. Garrard said the program corresponds with a University-wide goal to reduce solid waste by 50 percent.
But after receiving negative student feedback, Bradley and the Office of Facilities decided to shelve the project for the year — and a student committee will be created to reconsider the program in the fall. Bradley said plans could include piloting the program in freshman housing on Old Campus in fall 2015.
Sustainability initiatives may also be hindered by potential costs. Though she was initially enthusiastic about installing double-flush toilets in Branford bathrooms, Bradley said the fixed cost of this project was ultimately too high for implementation.
Funding for many of Branford’s sustainability initiatives originates from sources that include the Office of Facilities budget and the residential college’s own budget. Garrard said the Office of Facilities’ energy management department frequently looks into incentives — such as funding provided by energy providers or by Connecticut — that are available for funding initiatives like LED lightbulb replacements in Branford.
Pierson College Master Stephen Davis said sustainability will be a major factor in Pierson’s summer renovation plans.
“We have to strike the right kind of balance between our program budget for students … and creating an environment in the colleges that is kind to the environment,” said Davis.
Yale’s Office of Sustainability was founded in 2005.