Yale Releases 2023 Progress Report on Sustainability Goals

A Yale campus courtyard at dusk in early fall
January 23, 2024

Yale has released its 2023 Sustainability Progress Report, highlighting advances across a host of campus sustainability goals and university research aimed at developing solutions to the challenges of climate change.

The annual report tracks the progress made on  achieving the ambitions laid out in the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025, the nine-year roadmap launched in 2016. As that timeline concludes, the urgency of the climate crisis continues to inform the university’s priorities and research.

One of the central priorities—reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions—has led to new commitments that over the next quarter-century will reshape the university’s built environment and its approach to the production and consumption of energy. Alongside those ambitions, Yale continues making progress on a host of sustainability priorities to address pressing environmental and social challenges.

The 2023 Progress Report is now available. Highlights include:

Sustainability Goals

  • Yale has achieved 23 of the 41 goals outlined in the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 and is on track to meet 14 additional goals by 2025.

Research into Climate Solutions

  • The Yale Climate Impact Innovation Fund, part of Yale Planetary Solutions, distributed $3 million to 44 projects in which interdisciplinary research teams are working to better understand and develop solutions to critical climate challenges.
  • The university launched the new Yale Center for Geospatial Solutions (YSGS) to enhance the university’s climate research, training, and engagement infrastructure in the rapidly evolving areas of geospatial science, data, and analysis.

Empowerment

  • The university continues to track the co-benefits our sustainability goals—the positive outcomes that come as a direct or indirect result of an action, project, or policy. All active sustainability goals (those not already achieved) are assessed for five possible co-benefits: economic prosperity; health and well-being; resilience; sustainability impacts beyond Yale’s borders; and diversity, equity, and belonging. As of this year, three active goals were assessed to have major co-benefits, while 11 came with moderate co-benefits.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Yale has reduced its scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 28% below baseline year 2015.
  • Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions that occur because of Yale’s operations, but from sources not owned or controlled by the university, and account for the largest share of Yale’s overall carbon footprint. In 2023, Yale observed the following Scope 3 emissions trends compared to baseline year 2020: 23% increase in employee commuting; 1% increase in business travel;  6% decrease in purchased goods and services; 22% decrease in capital goods; 28% decrease in waste.

Climate Resilience

  • Last year, Yale partnered with The Nature Conservancy to host a Community Resilience Building Workshop for administrators, faculty, staff, and students to assess climate-related risks and prioritize strategies to address climate adaptation across Yale and beyond. Workshop findings will help inform the next phase of Yale’s sustainability planning to ensure that climate resilience is fully incorporated alongside mitigation efforts.

High-Performance Design Standards

  • Yale has achieved 3 LEED Silver, 27 LEED Gold, and 3 LEED Platinum certifications for new and renovated buildings as of 2023 and has begun construction on Yale’s first Living Building Challenge project, anticipated to be the largest living-building residential complex on a university campus.

Decarbonizing Transportation

  • As of 2023, Yale offers 72 charging stations for electric vehicles, a 1,440% increase since 2019 when investments in EV infrastructure began. Electrification of Yale’s fleet is underway, with eight EV vehicles and plans for expansion in the coming years.

Sustainable Commuting

  • Since 2019, there has been a 7% increase in Yale commuters’ use of sustainable transportation modes.

Waste Diversion

  • Yale diverted 34% of its waste in 2023. Overall materials usage (the combined tonnage of municipal solid waste, single-stream recycling, and food waste) was down 11% from pre-pandemic usage (2019). 

Telework

  • Since 2018, there has been a 154% increase in use of teleconferencing tools.

“This past year brought the impacts of climate change into stark relief, but it also highlighted the many ways that Yale is advancing research and campus operations to address the most significant environmental and social challenges,” says Amber Garrard, Director of the Yale Office of Sustainability. “The goals and progress outlined in this report reflect the many efforts of partnerships and collaborations across our campus. I hope it will also empower our community to see the climate crisis as a call to action as we recommit to building a sustainable future.”

Read the full 2023 Sustainability Progress Report.

Related: 9 Ways Yale Confronted Climate Change in 2023