Amay Tewari, Photo Editor

This month, the Yale College Council released their much-anticipated 2020-2021 Sustainable Dining Report, which aims to provide insight into the past practices of Yale Dining and outline actionable recommendations that can be instituted within the next year.

YCC Sustainability Committee co-chairs Jordi Bertrán Ramírez ’24 and Katie Schlick ’22 led the research their committee produced for the report. Some of the recommendations listed in the report include working with student organizations like the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, the Yale Animal Welfare Alliance and GREEN to help shift food culture at Yale, which include encouraging students to embrace meatless Mondays, to bring their reusable mugs and to go trayless, an action that reduced individual diners’ waste by an average of 40 percent. The report issued support for Meatless Mondays to be adopted across campus and mentioned Yale’s movement to localize food production.

For Bertrán Ramírez, the report is a big step forward for Yale Dining and was an example of where Yale can do better with regards to sustainability.

“I think a lot of sustainability policy is around divestment, and I am a huge supporter of divestment, but … I just wanted people to know that there was much more to the story than divestment,” Bertrán Ramírez. “I wanted to figure out a way we could help beyond divestment and fossil fuels.”

According to Bertrán Ramírez, the dining report is not only about changing practices within dining halls. Rather, he hopes that through these conversations about production practices, Yale can empower the New Haven community by supporting local businesses owned by women, BIPOC and low-income individuals.

In order to ensure that they are fulfilling the needs of as many Yalies and New Haven residents as possible, the YCC consulted with several other student organizations, including the YSEC, the Yale Animal Welfare Alliance and GREEN. They also consulted with the Yale Office of Sustainability and its sustainability peer liaisons, individuals in each college responsible for determining ways Yale can improve their sustainability practices.

The YCC allowed those other student organizations to offer comments on the report prior to its publication.

“When I shared [the report] with the organization, we were a little disappointed that it wasn’t more aggressive, but we also have a lot of experience working with Yale Dining in the past and we know how hard it is to get anything passed or any changes made, so it was honestly impressive to see that this was happening, especially right now with COVID,” president of YAWA Annabel Remudo ’22 said.

In an email to the News, Yale Dining expressed their continued support towards making Yale more sustainable. 

“The 2020-2021 academic year has limited us in the amount of student-led projects we’ve been able to support, as we have been focused on safely providing delicious and nutritious meals to our students,” read a statement to the News from Yale Dining. “Even throughout the pandemic, we did not lose sight of how we can focus on sustainability by reducing containers and reducing waste.” The statement mentioned Yale Dining’s work on a variety of projects such as the 4-bin collection system, where students can sort, recycle and compost food waste from the dining hall, and continued dedication to the University’s 2025 Sustainability Plan.

Bertrán Ramírez said that the efforts of the YCC Sustainability team were the culmination of hundreds of hours of work, pushing and pulling along with the administration. Bertrán Ramírez noted the difficulties of planning during a pandemic, specifically citing a lack of access to gardening spaces at Yale, which are closed to the public due to the pandemic. 

Verenice Torres ’22, a member of YSEC who helped work on the report, noted she was happy to see the YCC hold Yale accountable for a lack of transparency regarding composting.

“I definitely praise the YCC nudging Yale to provide more transparency and showing how Yale can take more responsibility and build new composting outlets because only 10 percent of non-organic waste sent to plants by Yale is accepted,” Torres said.

Bertrán Ramírez stated that he is “monumentally” proud of the work that has been done by his team. While he joked that he thinks of “the dining report as his child,” he also knows that it would not have been possible to produce without the help of his YCC team members. “I have a really wonderful team and what we’ve put together is the work of many talented members of the YCC.” 

The Yale Office of Sustainability was founded in 2005.