Behind the Scenes, Working for a More Sustainable Yale

Collage of Yale students working for the Office of Sustainability
February 20, 2024

In the first semester of this year, employees of the Yale Office of Sustainability piloted a “scrap box” program to promote material reuse at the Yale School of Architecture, finished work on a comprehensive database aligning Yale faculty research with the 17 U.N. sustainable development goals, sponsored a talk and yoga session to cope with climate anxiety, and spearheaded a zero-waste campaign for Yale’s largest sporting event.

And those were just the student employees.

Supporting the six full-time staff members in the Office of Sustainability are two dozen student employees who work as research assistants, designers, photographers, and peer educators. Their work is often less visible but no less vital to the mission of integrating sustainability into the cultural fabric of Yale. As this month’s sustainability champions, we are spotlighting the dedicated work of these student employees over the fall semester.

Sustainability Peer Education Program

This year, the Office of Sustainability launched the Sustainability Peer Education Program, an educational and leadership program whose mission is to educate, engage, and inspire Yale College students to participate in sustainable action through collaboration, community building, and strategic programming.

The program is organized into four undergraduate teams, each with a specific mandate. Teams are overseen by a graduate-level advisor—Yale Divinity School student Jackson Ringley ’25—who works with student leaders on developing their professional and social-emotional skills.

The Green Certifications Team is working to implement a successful process to acknowledge sustainable behaviors practiced by student clubs and organizations on campus, with the goals of encouraging student engagement in sustainability and increasing environmental awareness. Team members are: Norbu Dorji ’25, Roxana Grunenwald ’25, and Peyton Meyer ’24.

The Green Community Team kicked off the semester by collecting feedback from students themselves about topics of interest and ways to engage. With that information in hand, the team has hosted a sustainability career panel, a book talk with the authors of The Carbon Almanac, and a sustainable clothing drive. Team members are: Felicia Fraizer-Bisner ’25, Spencer Greenfield ’25, Doris Hong ’26, and Costanza Mancini ’25.

The Green Communications Team launched a new Instagram handle, @yalecollegesustainability, to promote surveys, interactive quizzes, tips for sustainable living, and promotions for a new event series called Sustainabili-Teas. Team members are: Ciara Lonergan ’25, Lucía Cores Harg ’26, and Hailey Seo ’26.

The Zero Waste Team began the academic year by collecting data: conducting waste audits at six residential colleges and using their findings to guide future work. They are now creating training materials for incoming students. “Many students want to recycle but don’t know what is recyclable and what is not,” observes team member Elise Wilkins ’25. The other team members are: Julian Barrera ’25, Fazl Hasfa ’25, Roan Hollander ’26, Nafiu Iyanuoluwa ’27, and Sahana Kaur ’26.

Research Assistants

Yale School of Public Health student Ezinwa Osuoha ’24 spent 18 months compiling a database aligning Yale’s faculty research with the 17 U.N. sustainable development goals, which resulted in a comprehensive report connecting Yale scholarship to sustainability development. “Yale faculty are doing a lot of research toward SDG 3, which is health and well-being,” Osuoha notes.

Four Yale School of Architecture students were members of the “Architecture Trash Committee:” Natalie Fox ’25, Tommy Lee ’25, Pobby Tan ’24, and Tao Zhang ’24. They piloted a ‘Scrap Box’ program—strategically placing collection boxes around the school to redirect material waste for reuse among architecture students.

Yale School of Public Health student Grace Hauser ’25 is developing materials to train peer educators and future sustainability leaders, following education priorities outlined by the ANGELS network. “I learned there are multiple ways to lead and influence, regardless of your personality type, and that these skills can be learned and improved,” she says.

Yale School of Management student Brennan Wong ’25 spent the fall beginning to develop a business case for making procurement spending at Yale more sustainable—first establishing a baseline, then identifying priority categories to make more sustainable. His takeaway: “Focus on the important stuff!”

Alison Thompson ’25, who is earning a dual degree from Yale School of the Environment and Yale School of Management, works on the Nature and Health Initiative, which supports activities in Greater New Haven and highlights the importance of spending time outdoors for personal health and well-being. This fall, the Initiative held its annual fall meeting and continued building connections with graduate students working on program partnership opportunities.

Sustainability data research assistant Caitlyn Finnegan ’25, a student at Yale School of the Environment, is supporting the data collection for Yale’s AASHE STARS report—a self-reporting framework for universities to measure sustainability performance in academics, engagement, operations, and administration.


Graphic design assistant Emily Cai ’25 created original, eye-catching graphics for the Office’s highest profile visibility campaigns—the monthly Yale Sustainability newsletter, Celebrate Sustainability Week in October, and Earth Week in April—as well a posters for Spring Salvage, e-waste collection drives, and infographics for the popular Yale Experts Explain series.

Social media assistance Ximena Escobar ’25 coordinated graphics and campaigns across Yale Sustainability’s four social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/X, Linkedn) and created entertaining videos and posts to educate followers about bioswales and stormwater mitigation, the circular fashion economy, Yale’s sustainability progress, and profiles of her fellow student employees.

Photographer Roxana Grunenwald ’25 documented numerous Yale sustainability events and initiatives over the fall, providing content for news articles, employee profiles, websites, and social media. Among the projects captured by her lens: the Yale Bird-Friendly Building Initiative, New Haven’s bioswales, Yale’s urban meadows, and the many events of Celebrate Sustainability Week.


Sustainability in Athletics

Bulldog Sustainability—a team of student athletes working to develop more environmentally responsible athletic programs—focused on making Yale’s largest athletic event, the Yale-Harvard football game, a more sustainable affair. The students’ “Put Waste in its Place” campaign urged fans to properly sort their trash and recycling at Yale Bowl—using posters, Instagram messages, and a video featuring two Yale football players as spokespeople. Group members are: Oren Aviad ’25, Maya Bellomo ’25, Katie So ’24, Emma Taylor ’26, and Hannah Turner ’25.

Each month, Yale Sustainability features a ‘Sustainability Champion of the Month’—a student, staff, or faculty member who is leading the charge toward a more sustainable campus. If you know a sustainability champion at Yale, email and tell us about them.