As the weather starts to get crisper, more of our time will be spent in buildings. At Yale, our buildings are beautiful spaces where we work, learn, and live.
Since buildings are places where we do so much, they also provide us with many opportunities to care for our environment. Using buildings in a mindful way creates many means to be sustainable. Plus, commuting to our buildings actively and conserving resources in our spaces can greatly improve our health and well-being.
What is Yale doing?
- Efficient resource use (e.g. energy or water)
- Minimizing material waste and emissions
- Protecting the health and well-being of building occupants
Under Yale’s Sustainability Plan 2025, all of Yale’s new buildings and comprehensive renovations are required to achieve the US Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification, or better. Yale has also set up its own sustainable design requirements in addition to adopting LEED standards, helping to further encourage Yale-specific opportunities for innovation in sustainability.
Yale has also incorporated several landscaping initiatives into its construction to help preserve local environments. The green roof at 32-36 Edgewood Ave., the green terrace at Yale Health, and Yale’s Urban Meadows all contribute to Yale’s Stormwater Management Plan by trapping and slowly releasing rainwater, reducing erosion. Cross Campus is also a green roof – in addition to providing a green space for people to congregate, it helps reduce the energy footprint of Bass Library.
Yale has 24 LEED-certified projects on campus, totaling over 1 million square feet. In 2015 Kline Chemistry Laboratory received LEED Gold Certification, and has been praised for its highly innovative ventilation control systems.
What Can You Do?
You likely don’t have much control over how many energy-conserving structures or technologies are in your building(s) but you do have control of how you interact on a day to day basis with your building(s). Occupant behavior can create huge differences in how much energy a given building uses. According to New Buildings Institute, tenant-controlled features such as light switches and wall outlets can decrease energy use by as much as 25% in the summer (or increase it by as much as 78%)[i]. Here are some ways you can make a difference.
- Green your commute! Use bikes, carpools, trains, buses, or get some more time in the sun and walk to work.
- Sign up for NuRide and GoNHGo and get rewards for using active transportation! Prizes for individuals and organizations include vouchers to local businesses ranging from free services at the Devil’s Gear Bike Store to an ice cream party from Ashley’s!
- Visit to.yale.edu for commuting resources!
- If your building has dual-flush toilets, use them properly – a liquid waste flush saves thirty percent of the water of a solid waste flush. There’s generally a label next to the flushing handle like this one.
- Open windows and/or wear lighter fabrics instead of cooling your space. About fifty percent of Yale’s water consumption is in creating chilled water for cooling campus buildings. (Yes, this will also help you conserve energy!)
- Be smart with water use! Fix a leaky faucet: three drips a minute can add up to over one hundred gallons a year[i]. If you see any water waste in your building, report it to facilities or to your building manager.
- Set your building’s temperatures between the University’s guidelines: 75 F (or higher!) in the summer, and 68 F (or lower!) in the winter. If you can’t control the thermostat directly, contact facilities.
- Take the stairs! It’s saves the building energy by not operating the elevator.
- Unplug ‘vampire’ devices. Many chargers and electronic devices draw power whenever plugged in, even if they’re turned off. Unplugging vampire devices can allow the average household to reduce its electric bill by up to 5%[i]. Consider investing in ‘smart’ plugstrips which can automatically cut off power to these devices when not in use.
- While setting up a building or moving out of it, try to reuse as much as you can. The Eli Surplus Exchange is a great resource for donating unneeded furniture and supplies, as well as acquiring new materials. Goodwill is also a great resource for repurposing items.
- Know where the recycling bins are in your building, and make sure you know what’s in and what’s out for single stream recycling.
- Take advantage of Yale’s lesser-known recycling programs! WB Mason, one of Yale’s major suppliers can recycle used toner cartridges, and Environmental Health & Safety can recycle all electronic waste!