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Chasing Yale's green goals:
'We can't be complacent'

The second half will be all downhill.

At least, that's what you might hope when comparing Yale's new Sustainability Strategic Plan to the university's long-touted climate change goal.

The plan, released this week, calls for cutting campus energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent in the next three years. Coming on top of a 16 percent cut already achieved in recent years, that would put Yale about halfway toward the bold goal that then-president Rick Levin ’74PhD set in 2005—a 43 percent reduction by 2020—with just four years left to achieve the other half.

"Sustainability depends on the entire university community," new president Peter Salovey ’86PhD writes in the new plan. In presenting the plan at Woolsey Hall yesterday, he added: "I don’t think we can be complacent."

In addition to energy and greenhouse gas emissions, the plan focuses on four other areas: natural and built environment; materials management; food and well-being; and sustainabiity leadership and capacity building. It also includes new mechanisms for tracking the cost-effectiveness of various efforts, with an eye toward saving money as well as the planet.

Building on Yale's first sustainability plan from 2010, the 2013 document sets goals in new areas, such as sustainable landscaping (including less frequent mowing in select areas), reducing stormwater runoff, and cutting consumption of potable water by 5 percent.

Besides the carbon emissions, the university met or nearly met many of its goals from the 2010 plan: throwing away 25 percent less trash; boosting recycling by 25 percent; composting 95 percent of dining hall food waste; adopting sustainability food criteria, such as locally or organically grown ingredients; and meeting LEED green-building standards for all new construction and major renovations. The percentage of commuters who drive to work alone dropped by 1 point; Yale aims to chip off another 2 points by 2016.

Oh, one other major challenge for a community that consists of thousands of scholars, students, and office workers: paper. The 2010 plan aimed to lower paper use by 25 percent. A 2012 progress report found efforts falling far short, with just a 2.4 percent reduction. The new plan sets a more modest goal: a 10 percent paper cut by 2016.

Filed under environment, sustainability, climate change
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