One solution to reducing Yale’s carbon footprint may be as simple as turning off the lights.
On Monday, the Presidential Carbon Charge Task Force — a committee formed in August by University President Peter Salovey to investigate an internal carbon pricing mechanism for Yale — announced the winners of two University-wide sustainability contests, which solicited ideas for reducing energy use at the University. The seven winning proposals, which were selected from 57 total submissions, ranged from installing energy dashboards in campus spaces to developing annual energy-saving competitions between residential colleges.
Though task force representatives said they were pleased with the turnout and quality of participation, winning staff and students interviewed said University sustainability can only be improved when the ideas are actually put into practice.
“The goal of the carbon charge is to incentivize energy reduction by departments, but the goal of this competition is to find ways to engage the … whole Yale community on an individual level to think about their energy usage,” Jonathan Edwards College Sustainability Service Corps Coordinator Jonah Bader ’16 said. “It is an effective way of brainstorming and getting the collective wisdom of the Yale community since people have different views and see different things.”
Bader was one of the six student and staff winners of the first competition, which asked members of the Yale community to propose ways in which energy information and incentives can be used to engage the campus community, reducing Yale’s carbon footprint. He pitched six ideas, which ranged from simple suggestions as turning off lights in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library after hours to displaying energy emissions associated with dining hall dishes.
Tina Saller, senior administrative assistant in Woodbridge Hall, said her winning proposal similarly dealt with the wasted energy from lights left on. She recommended that Yale install sensor switches across the University, which she said can be purchased for as little as $10.
Brandon Hudik ’17, who pitched the creation of a Tyng-like cup to be awarded for the most environmentally friendly college, said he felt this type of competitive format got “the ideas flowing” on campus and provided an incentive for the campus to become more energy-conscious.
The pitches were evaluated on the basis of creativity and on the practical reality of implementing them,said professor of environmental law and policy Dan Esty, who chaired the sub-committee that hosted the competitions.
The $500 prize for the second competition, which asked the Yale community to search for best practices for promoting energy conservation, was awarded to Eric Traester of Yale Security for his suggestion to utilize existing sensor technology to integrate and automate lighting controls with heating and cooling controls in campus buildings.
“One of the things we realized that is critical for broader University success in addressing greenhouse gas emissions is to find ways to bring technology already there, so we could reduce emissions without changing behavior in every place it may be necessary,” Esty said. “It will certainly be a recommendation of the subcommittee that Yale explore opportunities to set up this type of systemic energy conservation mechanism so we can get technology working for us to help reduce energy consumption.”
Esty added that while it is not certain that Yale will implement every idea that was recognized by the task force, it is likely that many will be included in the formal recommendations the committee will send to Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak. Chair of the Task Force and economics professor William Nordhaus ’63 said in January that the group intended to issue its formal recommendation in late February or March.
Still, others interviewed said the true success of the competition will only be evident if Yale takes the ideas from paper and actually puts them into action.
“If these [ideas] can actually be implemented, that is the next stop,” Brandon Blaesser ’15 said. “The competition was not to have ‘pie in the sky’ ideas but to get actual ideas that can be done.”
Blaesser’s proposal for the competition was to post monthly breakdowns of energy usage in entryways, departments and units across campus so that individuals have a better sense of their carbon footprint. He said his idea is readily implementable since the data already is available on energy meters across campus.
Each of the six winners in this category won a $100 cash prize, which will then be awarded to a Yale club, group, department, office or residential college of their choosing.