Amay Tewari

University administrators approved a Yale College Council proposal to establish a fund of $100,000 that will support student projects promoting energy reduction and environmental awareness.

Last July, encouraged by conversations with friends from his home state of Kentucky, Abey Philip ’22 began drafting ideas to encourage student sustainability on campus. One semester ago, securing funding for such a proposal still seemed like a pipe dream to Philip, but over winter break, Yale greenlit the YCC’s Student Green Innovation Fund. Through the support of the Office of Sustainability and the Office of Engineering & Energy Management, the YCC plans to announce the beginning of the application period in an email to be sent to all students on Tuesday.

“This [grant] is purely student-based. We’re not only trying to reduce campus energy use but also have student voices shape Yale’s push to be a greener campus,” said YCC Task Force Director Keon Azar ’22.

After extensive research in the early fall, Azar and Philip, who is a YCC senator, submitted a proposal to the Office of Sustainability. That office then filed a grant application to the Energy Management department of Yale Facilities. With this and future projects in mind, the YCC duo also piloted a Green Task Force within the Council to tackle environmental challenges on campus. Beyond the Student Green Innovation Fund, they are eyeing future campus greening efforts, including revitalization of the Marsh Botanical Garden on Science Hill.

This fund comes from the budget of the Energy Management department in the Office of Facilities. While the primary aim of the fund is to support undergraduates, Philip said that the selection committee — composed of the Green Task Force, the Office of Sustainability and Yale Facilities — would be open to receiving proposals from graduate students.

Eligible projects range from ones that aim to directly reduce energy use to those which educate students on sustainable practices. No cap to the size of each project’s award has been specified, though the application — due on Saturday, Feb. 8 — asks students to include an estimated budget and timeline.

According to Director of the Office of Sustainability Ginger Chapman, Yale Facilities invests millions of dollars annually to support energy conservation projects on campus, which has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in emissions since 2005. However, as Chapman wrote in an email to the News, while the work of Yale Facilities is “important and impactful, emissions reductions can be accelerated by broader community engagement and action.”

Many universities have pioneered funds encouraging environmental stewardship, though according to Philip, the YCC’s program is unlike those of other campuses because it is both student-led and student-targeted.

Despite drawing inspiration from programs at other schools, Azar and Philip were dissatisfied by the popular revolving fund model, which they noted were frequently managed by financial analysts seeking to optimize the return on investment. By contrast, the Student Green Innovation Fund will provide direct capital to students with successful proposals.

“We’re not investing in the stock market, we’re investing in the student body,” Philip said.

In a demonstration of its community-building purposes, the application also emphasizes the “intersectional project impacts” of student proposals.

Both Azar and Philip emphasized the fund’s goal to benefit students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

“If the whole Yale community is not involved, does that really foster change?” Azar asked.

The selection committee will run workshops of chosen projects in the spring with the intent of formally launching the initiatives in the coming fall term. While the Student Green Innovation Fund will be disbursed to projects proposed in the upcoming two weeks, Abey and Philip hope that funding can be renewed in coming years.

The Office of Sustainability was created in 2005.

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu