Yale Launches Microloan Fund to Inspire Innovative Solutions
Inventive idea for a more sustainable chemical disposal system in your lab? Creative scheme for cutting down on student energy use in the residential colleges? With the Yale Sustainability Microloan Fund, announced last Friday, the Yale Office of Sustainability has created a cutting-edge program through which these might be realized. With all members of the Yale community potential recipients, the program seeks to use individual or group innovation as a solution for enhancing Yale’s culture of sustainability, while spotlighting the connection between financial and environmental prosperity.
Yale Sustainability microloans will help fund projects that might not qualify for regular budgetary funding, but that promise to save environmental resources as well as money. Loans will be given in amounts ranging from $500 to $100,000, and awarded by an expert committee based on a project’s financial benefit, environmental benefit, feasibility, innovation, and interdepartmental cooperation. By focusing on cooperation, the Fund aims to facilitate forward-thinking dialogue about the sustainability challenges facing the University, and the development of creative, situation-specific responses.
Individuals interested in applying should visit the Office of Sustainability website for more information and application materials.
Bulldog Sustainability Steps up its Game
The link between football tailgates and sustainability may have been underappreciated in the past, but this year Yale Athletics is sharpening its game with the expansion of the Bulldogs Sustainability program. Last fall saw a new host of initiatives engaging varsity student-athletes and fans alike in conversation and action concerning waste, and the Yale Athletic Program’s relationship with the environment.
One of the most successful and visible events was Yale’s participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Game Day Challenge, for which more than 80 colleges across the country attempted to divert the greatest percentage of their waste from traditional, closed streams. During the October 30th football game with Columbia, ten volunteers from STEP (Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership), with five from the Varsity Swim Team, redirected 1000 pounds of waste from an unsustainable fate in an incinerator. Of that, 900 pounds were recycled and 100 pounds composted, for a total diversion rate of 22.5%, and production of half as much trash per person compared to previous games.
Increased availability of recycling and composting bins at the tailgate, collection of bottles from fans during the game, and a greater focus on education of the crowds contributed to this success. The unique opportunity to engage University employees and their families (provided with free food and admission as part of Yale’s “Employee Day”), meanwhile, helped expand the population that Yale Sustainability reaches. And the future of this initiative as an establishment in the Athletics Program looks bright: there are plans to repeat the efforts at every home football game, and expand to hockey as well.
Varsity student-athletes are also stepping up their commitment to the environment with Bulldog Sustainability’s Green Team, made up of a member from each team, who focus on pledging specific acts of sustainability, team by team. Women’s Field Hockey will be cutting down on wasted energy by unplugging electricity-sucking appliances when not in use, and Men’s Lacrosse will be hydrating during practices and games with reusable water bottles instead of excessive disposable cups. Whether you find yourself in Payne Whitney Gym or among the crowds at a future Yale game, be on the lookout for signs of a more resource-efficient Yale Athletics program, and ways in which you can personally contribute.
Student Organization Weaves Together Sustainability and Social Justice
Recycling can be for more than just paper and plastic, and has serious social benefits beyond environmental ones: this is the message that the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project (YHHAP) is conveying through a stream of new projects. YHHAP, which has traditionally focused on providing essential services to New Haven’s underserved populations (running a soup kitchen, providing case management services to individuals applying for government benefits, tutoring in prisons) has recently begun looking more aggressively for ways to divert student and University waste towards populations that might better use it.
“Kitchen to Kitchen” is a food recycling program, started last spring, which transports leftover food from residential college dining halls to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, where it plays a significant role in cutting down on the soup kitchen’s costs, as well to the University’s food waste. The end of this semester, meanwhile, has seen the creation of two exciting campaigns: the No Freeze Project clothing drive and the YHHAP Book Exchange textbook drive. The No Freeze Project asks students to donate unused clothes, and redirects collected material to those with greater need through Columbus House, New Haven’s largest homeless shelter. The YHHAP Book Exchange is an innovative project that collects students’ used textbooks, with plans to resell them to students at a much discounted price in future semesters, and donate the money directly to New Haven social service providers.
Both projects ask students to look at materials they no longer use, and think about the ways in which their functionality might be sustained. Whether recognizing that an old winter coat might be used more fully by a less fortunate individual, or that a textbook can be donated to produce money for social services while finding a second life with another student, YHHAP’s projects show that more thoughtful use and reuse of resources is as much as social justice issue as an environmental one. To learn more about YHHAP’s projects, please visit their website.
Before You Leave: 4 Simple Steps to Sustainability
Leaving Yale for break? Don’t head out from your office or dorm without taking these simple steps to keep your energy footprint from expanding while you’re away:
UNPLUG YOUR APPLIANCES—all of them. Computers, microwaves, chargers, stereos, printers will continue to suck energy from the grid even while not in use. Unplugging them (or your surge protectors) before leaving takes seconds, and results in essential energy savings.
TURN DOWN YOUR THERMOSTAT so it doesn’t heat your room unnecessarily without you in it. Make sure to close all your windows tightly to avoid heat leakage, and talk to facilities if unsure of an appropriate temperature.
DEFROST YOUR REFRIGERATOR. As huge energy sinks and facilitators of spoiled, forgotten food, there is little reason to keep a refrigerator running while you’re away. Give yourself a day or two before leaving to empty it, unplug it, and prop the door open with a towel underneath to absorb drainage.