University to launch ambitious Yale Sustainability Plan 2025

September 29, 2016

This October, President Salovey will announce the launch of a new and ambitious university sustainability plan that aims to connect the broader Yale community under one long-term Yale Sustainability Vision. Expanding the scope of the previous two plans, the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 supports Yale’s academic mission and envisions a Yale where sustainability is seamlessly integrated into the scholarship and operations of the university.

This broader focus is demonstrated from the makeup of the Steering Committee Chairs that led the creation process: Associate Provost for Research, James Slattery; Director of Yale Procurement, John Mayes; and Director of the Yale Office of Sustainability, Ginger Chapman. Representing three different areas of the university, the members brought a broad perspective to the new plan.

Envisioning a better future

The Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 is organized into nine ambitions: Leadership, Empowerment, Health & Well-Being, Climate Action, Stewardship, Built Environment, Mobility, Materials, and Technology. Each ambition is supported by objectives, and measurable and time-bound goals.

“The new structure of the plan invites participation from a diverse range of groups across Yale, and greater engagement can lead to more innovative solutions, technologies, and best practices,” explains Chapman.

The plan was created alongside other key sustainability initiatives. In 2015, the United Nations announced the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, the State of Connecticut committed to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, and New Haven launched Vision 2025. Yale’s new plan reflects these initiatives and sets a framework for global and local impact through partnerships with the City of New Haven and by leveraging alumni around the world.

Inspired by these initiatives, Yale aims for carbon neutrality by 2050. Yale is committed to meeting its previous goal of a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. Greater engagement from the sciences, humanities, and Yale community will be critical to keeping Yale on track to achieve these goals.

Academic Integration

Specifically, Yale aims to establish a network to foster connections between the university’s scholarship and operations by 2019. The Carbon Charge Project exemplifies how collaboration from a range of disciplines at Yale can lead to innovation in addressing climate change. The first of its kind at an institution of higher learning, the project is experimenting with the design and implementation of carbon pricing on Yale’s campus.

The project was piloted last year, with participation from Yale administrators, faculty, and students across Yale’s campus. Slattery remarked, “Carbon pricing could really be an effective way to encourage behavior change that helps drive investments in cleaner options.  We are excited to test at the institutional level whether behavior does change as a result of carbon pricing.”

The ambitions laid out in the new sustainability plan put more focus on how people are affected by sustainability, broadening the discussion around the concept. Yale groups are already offering opportunities that connect sustainability to personal health and well-being. Last spring, the Yale School of Nursing partnered with the Yale Landscape Lab through a Community Health course, providing workshops that connected gardening and cooking to healthy lifestyles for patients.

The plan also calls for a more diverse and inclusive sustainability movement at Yale. Under the Empowerment ambition, Yale aims to launch an initiative promoting dialogue on sustainability, inclusion, and justice on campus and in New Haven, by 2018. By 2020, Yale hopes to develop a sustainability literacy initiative for Yale students, faculty, and staff.

Already, work is being done on campus that address these goals. The Yale Sustainable Food Program and the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration are co-sponsoring events, including the Chewing the Fat Series. The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES) offers Diverse Voices Series, a course with lectures from a diverse set of environmental leaders tackling sustainability challenges.

The Process

The university’s focus on a connected sustainability movement started with greater engagement from the Yale community during the planning stages of the document. In August 2014, the Sustainability Advisory Council initiated a review of the previous plans, collecting feedback from a cross section of students who completed research in a class offered at F&ES, the World Business Council, Yale faculty, and Yale staff.

“The review process was greatly informative, as it concluded that while previous plans were strong, the new plan takes into account elements including more social indicators, broader campus involvement, and a longer timeline,” continued Chapman, “These efforts led to the current nine ambition structure.”

The new plan is dynamic, and will be accessed and updated each year. As goals are achieved, new goals will also be created.

The plan took eighteen months to develop. Key elements of this process included the internal and external reviews of previous sustainability plans as well as focus groups and stakeholder engagement sessions with students, faculty, staff, and alumni; interviews with university leadership; and topic-specific workshops.

According to Mayes, “Community engagement was vital to the creation of Yale’s new Sustainability Plan.  The team’s engagement approach gave the university a clear understanding of the aspirations and priorities of the Yale community.  With this understanding, the team was able to draft an inclusive plan that has buy-in and support from most all corners of the campus.  Ultimately, the exercise served as the first step in unifying the Yale Community around Yale’s New Sustainability Vision.”

After the launch of the plan, the Office of Sustainability will continue collaborating with groups across Yale to update their Sustainability Action Plans. The Office will also launch working group meetings and workshops on Fostering Collaboration. By doing what Yale does best – integrating science, the humanities, the arts, and the Yale community – the university hopes to create, test and adopt innovative solutions to the environmental and social challenges we all face.