As awareness of the damaging effects of climate change has increased over the past few decades, Yale has worked to reduce its carbon footprint. This week, three students were recognized for their proposals to create a more energy-efficient future at the University.

The three undergraduates — Nicholas Dell Isola ’18, Carrie Heilbrun ’19 and Allie Forman ’19 — were awarded prizes of $300, $150 and $75 respectively for their submissions to the Yale Carbon Charge Challenge. The competition asked students to pitch ideas to make Yale more energy efficient and to meet the challenge of the Yale Carbon Charge, a project that tests the feasibility and effectiveness of carbon pricing on Yale’s campus. The three winners’ proposals were aimed at providing education or resources to help save energy around the school.

Dell Isola — who won first prize for a proposal to introduce a workshop to discuss sustainable living with incoming first years during Camp Yale — said that his idea is important because “letting information just trickle down to people isn’t a real way to solve a problem.”

“If Yale [treats] sustainability like it’s important, then more of the Yale student body would get on board,” he added.

Heilbrun and her teammates pitched an energy-saving app that would allow students and faculty to earn rewards for saving energy. The app would use a point system to encourage actions that save more energy.

“Students who respond to energy saving directives are preparing for a world beyond the Yale residential colleges,” Heilbrun said. “The United States is transitioning towards a clean energy economy where carbon’s externalities are properly priced and renewable energy powers our electric grid. I hope that my app can help students get used to these behaviors so they can save money as electricity customers in the future.”

Forman received the third-place award for a plan to mix well-being with energy conservation. Her proposal would share advice with students about actions that would be beneficial for both the environment and personal well-being. She believes her idea will be effective because people will be more likely to do something if it directly benefits them, she explained. She hopes to roll the plan out next fall.

The competition was created by Yale Carbon Charge, which aims to create a University-wide “tax” on carbon emissions. According to the Yale Carbon Charge model, administrative units whose buildings produce emissions below the University average will receive money via the carbon tax. The further below the average they are, the more money they receive.

Meanwhile, administrative units with less efficient buildings now pay $40 per metric ton of carbon dioxide that their buildings emit each year, explained Casey Pickett FES ’10, the director of the Carbon Charge. The University began the initiative in July of last year.

“[The Carbon Charge] is a perfect example of the power of incentive-based climate policy,” Pickett said. “The carbon charge takes an externality — the cost to society of each additional ton of greenhouse gas emissions — and internalizes it so members of the Yale community can see it in the form of energy reports, and feel it when it hits their budgets.”

According to the Carbon Charge website, Yale is the first institution of higher learning to establish a comprehensive internal carbon-pricing program.

Skakel McCooey |