April 23, 2020
At a challenging time in Yale’s history, the Sustainability Liaisons represent a bright spot as they conclude their first full academic year of advancing student engagement with sustainability.
For this reason, on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day Yale Sustainability is recognizing the achievements of each Liaison with the inaugural Yale Residential College Sustainability Awards – which are popularly known as the Sustainability Superlatives.
Designed in the style of high school yearbook awards, the Sustainability Superlatives are meant to be fun designations that celebrate the unique projects each Liaison brought to their respective college community. Awards range from “Greenest Thumb” to “Biggest Bargain Hunter”, and represent the interdisciplinary and multi-faceted approach that the Liaisons took to promote widespread culture shift and achieve a truly sustainable campus.
Hired in August 2019, Liaisons from each of Yale’s fourteen residential colleges were tasked with implementing the first ever set of Residential College Sustainability Action Plans. These plans outline a series of ambitions and tasks that allow the Liaisons and their Operations Managers to promote a culture of sustainability within their own residential communities while helping to advance institutional progress towards the university-wide goals set out in the Yale Sustainability Action Plan 2025.
While the Action Plans were carefully customized to the distinct culture, character, and physical context of each of the residential colleges, the Liaisons astutely adapted the tasks outlined in the plans to meet the changing needs and interests of their community. Each Liaison took the initiative to launch their very own out-of-the-box pilot projects, community challenges, and campaigns. These ideas advanced on-campus sustainability in inspiring and rather contagious ways; many of these ideas were replicated in other colleges, and some even became cross-college collaborative efforts.
“The sustainability program has been a wonderful boost to all our colleges,” said Julia Adams, Head of Grace Hopper College and Chair of the Council of Heads of College. “Our sustainability reps have been brilliant, combining seriousness of purpose with inventiveness and fun.”
Unfortunately, the efforts of the Liaisons faced an immense roadblock as the campus announced its closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, with almost no warning, the Liaisons swiftly and creatively transferred their on-campus sustainability work to a virtual setting to continue to advance college sustainability wherever they and their peers found themselves. The Liaisons have continued to engage with their peers through newsletters and Zoom meetings while carrying out research to inform the future of college sustainability at Yale. Their courage in advancing sustainability from remote locations was representative of Yale’s own resilience in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, and therefore deserving of recognition.
The Sustainability Superlatives were announced to Liaisons and Operations Managers from each of the residential colleges with an interactive StoryMap as well as through digital certificates, which will be printed and displayed upon the community’s return to campus.
“We are pleased with the passion and creativity that this cohort of Liaisons brought to their work this year,” said John Bollier, Vice President for Facilities and Campus Development. “The Liaisons are helping to write Yale’s sustainability story for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and we couldn’t be more proud.”
Members of the Yale Community can explore the interactive StoryMap of the 2020 Yale Residential College Sustainability Awards and participate in Yale Sustainability’s Earth Week at Home.
Yale is committed to building a more sustainable world. By doing what we do best – integrating science, the humanities, and our community – Yale creates, tests and adopts innovative solutions to the environmental and social challenges we all face.