Both Victoria Lim ’21 and Trini Kechkian ’21 spent their first year on campus separately advocating for a more sustainable Yale. Not long after their paths met, the seeds for Get Responsible for Earth’s Environment Now, or GREEN at Yale — a student-run environmental action group — were planted.
GREEN at Yale, formed in March, is comprised of 15 undergraduates led by Lim and Kechkian. The group seeks to make Yale and New Haven more sustainable and to cultivate a more environmentally conscious campus culture. For that, it will be working on one long-term project and two short-term projects per semester. This semester, the long-term project is the Sustainable Butteries Project and the short-term ones are yet to be announced.
“I think a lot of times, environmental events and environmental change are very much like preaching to the choir, when we need to involve everyone on campus,” Lim said.
Lim highlighted that while many environmental groups on campus do good work in their areas of focus, they each tend to emphasize on specific issues — such as beekeeping or fossil fuel divestment — that do not interest all students.
Rather than zeroing in on a specific issue, GREEN seeks to engage the entire student body with adopting lifestyle changes and to push for more direct, systematic environmentally friendly measures.
“It’s going to be really nice to see Yale students being environmentally friendly and realizing that it’s not something that you have to work for — it’s just making little life changes,” said Tulsi Patel ’22, a member of the group.
The group hopes to help Yale reach its 2025 sustainability goals by working “closer to the ground” and promoting action by the student body, Lim said.
As its long-term initiative for the fall semester, GREEN is taking on the Sustainable Butteries Project, an effort to encourage butteries to switch out disposable plates and cutlery for reusable dishes, offer more plant-based food options and compost food waste.
The Pierson College buttery, where Kechkian works and has recently been appointed sustainability manager, introduced more easily compostable plates and cutlery approximately nine months ago. This happened almost immediately after students voiced concern about the amount of waste generated by disposables, according to Pierson Operations Manager Tanya Wiedeking. Since then, the buttery has begun composting food waste and is now in the process of transitioning to reusable plates and cutlery.
Wiedeking added that the buttery has done a few themed nights, during which the students were offered a wider variety of plant-based foods such as vegan baklava from Havenly. She said she hoped to make such foods a regular part of the buttery menu in the future.
“It doesn’t require a great deal of financial investment,” Wiedeking said. “I think what it does do is foster community, and I’m very happy to see that there’s an interest in making an effort to make our buttery more sustainable amongst the students, and that it’s not coming from the administration down, but from the people that work in the buttery.”
Wiedeking said she hopes to see similar changes across the colleges, “so that it just becomes second nature to think about how we can be more sustainable.”
Lim and Kechkian reached out to buttery managers and operations managers in all 14 residential colleges last spring about adopting more sustainability practices, and received responses from approximately one third of the colleges, all of which welcomed the idea. Kechkian said GREEN chose to adopt sustainable butteries as their main project this semester to “keep going with the momentum we already have.”
“Before, we were two people trying to reach out to all these colleges we weren’t a part of,” Kechkian said. “But now, we have at least eight other colleges represented in our group, so everyone can reach out to their own colleges’ managers.”
In addition to beginning its sustainable buttery initiative, GREEN has begun performing outreach for Project Green Challenge, a month-long global sustainability challenge for high school and college students. Lim noted that this type of engagement is somewhat “out of the ordinary,” for the group, as it seeks to focus on “systemic change as opposed to environmental education.”
The Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 includes 38 goals, ranging from food literacy and resilience to sustainable commuting.
Asha Prihar | firstname.lastname@example.org