Student-led sustainability groups congregated on Cross Campus on Sunday afternoon in an event organized by the Office of Sustainability to celebrate Earth Day and to showcase the office’s work and goals.
The Office of Sustainability event, attended by hundreds of students over the course of the afternoon, featured booths by graduate and undergraduate sustainability student groups, including Yale Students Environmental Coalition, Students for Carbon Dividends and Bulldog Sustainability. Students involved in these groups pointed to the effectiveness of connecting with cultural centers to create a larger movement, bipartisan agreements and local outreach in promoting sustainability at Yale.
On July 1, 2017, Yale launched the Carbon Charge Project, a program designed to cut down the amount of emissions the University produces and create “the world’s first internal carbon market at a university scale.” Three years later, a few Yale students have assumed responsibility for thinking of ways to implement the carbon charge in residential colleges. Leah Surratt ’18 and Jonah Pearl ’18, who ran the group’s table on Cross Campus on Sunday, said Yale has done a great job promoting sustainability and that implementing the carbon charge represents an important step.
Surratt also pointed to the University’s sustainability goals for 2025 as an important move by the University to support and encourage community members to be environmentally conscious. Unveiled in October 2016 by University President Peter Salovey, the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 sets a nine-year timetable for various sustainability initiatives.
Student groups have their own goals to promote sustainability at Yale. one of the those groups are Bulldog Sustainability, which aims to engage with sports teams and encourage them to be more sustainable. Sofia Menemenlis ’20, a project coordinator for Bulldog Sustainability, said one of the group’s long-term goals is to have a Zero Waste Game Day in which there is no waste at a football game or football tailgate. She pointed to the efficacy of working with sports teams to build a more environmentally friendly campus.
“The sports teams at Yale are really strong communities to begin with so there’s a lot of potential to engage with sports teams to improve sustainability at Yale,” she said.
Other groups on campus also emphasized the importance of a representative support base. Selah Bell ’20, the cultural center liaison for Yale Students Environmental Coalition, said the student-led environmental coalition and cultural centers share “a lot of similar values.” This intersectionality can help advance the environmental movement, Bell said.
“The environmental movement is known to be very white, but a lot of the values and things that we care about intersect and connect with a lot of the values that the social justice movements are about and so [there are] a lot of opportunities for collaboration and increased representation that we really want to focus on,” she said.
Bell said the New Haven outreach coordinator position in Yale Students Environmental Coalition is also an important role, because it creates a “great opportunity” for Yale students to become more involved in local politics concerning the environment and to speak with city residents about how Yale might better promote environmental sustainability.
The Yale College Democrats have collaborated with Yale Students Environmental Coalition on a policy proposal this semester and have also worked on environmental policy at the state and local level over the past year. President of the Yale Democrats Jordan Cozby ’20 said it is important that students push the environmental movement forward.
“In the absence of progressive policy at the Federal level, it’s vital that students step up and push for environmental protections,” Cozby said in an email to the News.
Another sustainability group on campus that is focused on bipartisan support is Students for Carbon Dividends, a nationwide student coalition founded by Yale students and launched in February that advocates climate change with bipartisan support.
Bell said Yale Students Environmental Coalition has cooperated with Students for Carbon Dividends and that while Yale Students Environmental Coalition does not agree with everything the carbon groups has proposed, the group supports their foundational message.
In the federal government, Yale graduates are also reaching across the aisle to pass environmental protection legislation. On April 18, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ’82, D-Minn., and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, led a bipartisan group of 13 senators to urge Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt to stop issuing so-called “hardship” waivers that allow parties to exempt themselves from the Renewable Fuel Standard. The bipartisan group also requested that the EPA disclose information about these waivers and make the process more transparent.
While Bell acknowledged that there was “a long way to go” for Yale Students Environmental Coalition, he said he is hopeful about increasing connection and partnership.
Yale Students Environmental Coalition was founded in 1986 and serves as the umbrella organization for all student environmental groups at Yale College.
Chloe Glass | firstname.lastname@example.org