Yale unveiled a sweeping new plan Monday that sets a nine-year course for the University’s many sustainability initiatives.
In a campuswide email, University President Peter Salovey unveiled the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 amid several campus sustainability events this week, including campus tree plantings and a sustainability fair. The plan was developed by Yale faculty, students and staff members over the last 18 months and outlines nine broader “ambitions,” 20 objectives and 38 specific goals for Yale to achieve in the next nine years. The initiative’s short-term goals include creating sustainability focus groups in 2017, and long-term goals include a “pay as you throw” disposal charge piloted on campus by 2022, the email said.
According to the 50-page plan, these goals supposed to be “aspirational but achievable by 2025.”
The plan bolsters Yale’s current sustainability initiatives while also expanding the goals laid out by two previous plans in 2010 and 2013.
Salovey called the 2025 plan the University’s “most ambitious, wide-ranging plan” on sustainability in its history.
“We wanted to lay out a few ‘stretch’ goals that our community would achieve only by working with each other,” he said.
The new 2025 plan originated in 2014 when Salovey asked Yale Sustainability Advisory Council to review Yale’s current sustainability plans. A working group and steering committee reviewed the recommendations compiled by students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the World Business Council for Sustainability Development.
The new 2025 plan originated in 2014, when Salovey asked the Yale Sustainability Advisory Council to review Yale’s current sustainability plans. These recommendations included a greater alignment of Yale’s sustainability and academic goals as well as a greater outreach to areas beyond Yale’s campus, said Amber Garrard, the education and outreach manager for Yale’s Office of Sustainability.
Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said the new plan is consistent with the University’s overall mission statement by allowing academic scholarship to inform a broader community outside Yale. Another short-term goal of the plan is to create an online hub that compiles Yale’s sustainability research, O’Connor said.
“Not only are we creating information and knowledge,” O’Connor said, “we are also disseminating it as well, and in that way, [Yale Sustainability Plan 2025] actually aligns very much with the mission statement of using our scholarship, teaching and research to actually improve the world.”
Associate Dean for Professional Practice Bradford Gentry, who served on the 2025 plan’s working group, said the current collaboration between Yale’s academic departments and its day-to-day operational departments is indicative of the types of collaborations the plan will facilitate. Gentry added that another main goal of the plan is to actively engage with the New Haven community on sustainability issues.
Many students involved with sustainability efforts on campus have shown enthusiasm for the new plan, calling it a step in the right direction for Yale.
The 2025 plan’s development involved three Yale student delegates from across the University. One delegate, Kevin Lee FES ’17, said he appreciated that the plan took a revised approach to the issue of sustainability from other similar plans beyond Yale.
“When a lot of people think about sustainability they think just about environmental sustainability, and that’s definitely a huge component when we talk about sustainability,” Lee said. “But I think this plan, compared to year’s past, really tries to tie together how environmental issues are linked with health, wellbeing and empowerment, down to the mission statement of Yale.”
Lee praised the plan’s mission to get Yale carbon neutral by 2050, the sort of “tough goal” he said is needed to encourage sustainability at large private organizations. Lee said he hopes the new goals will push Yale towards the sustainability standards set by many of its peer institutions, such as Stanford, which he said is the hallmark for university sustainability.
Still, Scott Smith ’18, formerly the sustainability coordinator of Branford College, said he was skeptical of the optimistic vision of the 2025 plan, disapproving of the plan’s heavy use of “buzzwords” and its focus on student behavior rather than top-down solutions. He said he doubted that any bottom-up approach would effectively mitigate sustainability concerns.
In Smith’s view, policies like the Carbon Charge Pilot Project are better means by which the University can become more sustainable. Smaller, student-led projects, such as drives to install more efficient LED bulbs in all Yale dorms, will never make a substantive difference, he added.
“It’s almost all fluff,” said Smith. “I have worked with these people before and I know that they, especially the people who have worked in the Sustainability Office, are very passionate about what they do. They definitely believe in what they’re doing. I’m just not entirely sure if what we’re doing is going to have a huge impact.”
The Yale Office of Sustainability was established in 2005.