Materials

Using and Reusing Materials to Inspire

University operations and academics require a vast array of materials - from art supplies to furniture, from medical equipment to sports uniforms, from construction materials to food. Yale helps drive sustainability within this complex materials system by leveraging relationships with suppliers and using data to inspire, incentivize, and empower our community members.


Yale’s Efforts

  • We continually look for opportunities to encourage reuse of products within the Yale community and beyond. Spring Salvage donates items from students leaving the University.
  • Managing the disposal of items leaving campus is a complex process. We strive for transparency, and look to the Yale community help us reach our goals. 
  • We are currently exploring the feasibility of a Pay As You Throw program at Yale to help with our waste reduction efforts. 

What You Can Do

Our Objectives and Goals

Purchasing Standards

Advance purchasing standards that promote sustainability and resilience

The “Common Closet” initiative at Yale, which was piloted in Spring 2022, is a student-run online consignment and donation service providing affordable clothing to Yale students, reducing clothing waste, and promoting student participation in a circular economy. Students can donate directly to New Haven organizations or consign online by dropping off clothing at locations in their residential colleges, where they are then sorted, inventoried, and published on a website. Sellers receive a percentage of the selling price, with the remainder being pooled to provide first-generation students a flat discount rate. This University-wide secondhand clothing market helps to reduce textile waste, decrease the Yale community’s carbon footprint, and demonstrate that clothing markets can be ethical, equitable, and sustainable.

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2021 - June 2022: 
Goal: 

Healthy Materials Purchasing

ON TRACK

By 2025, implement sustainable purchasing practices for specific commodity groups.

Progress: 

An updated inventory was conducted for 2022 to reflect current practices around plastics purchasing, and an analysis of this data is underway. As the previous plastics purchasing inventory was conducted pre-pandemic, the analysis will evaluate changes between data sets and will be used to inform sustainable plastics purchasing going forward.

Material Flow Systems

Promote material flow systems that employ use and disposal patterns to inform purchasing decisions

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2021 - June 2022: 
Goal: 

Pay As You Throw

ACHIEVED

By January 2022, create, pilot, and assess a “pay as you throw” system.

Progress: 

This goal was achieved in 2019. The Pay As You Throw pilot took place in Spring 2019, the first of its kind at an American higher education institution. The experiment included three treatment groups and two control groups; details about the pilot can be found on the Yale Sustainability website. The final analysis was completed in Fall 2019, and outcomes from the pilot continue to be used.

Goal: 

Targeted Waste Reduction

ACHIEVED

By 2020, identify the most impactful commodity groups that contribute to Yale’s waste stream through material flow analyses.

Progress: 

This goal was achieved in 2020. Material flow analyses on pallets, animal bedding, paper, and cardboard were completed.

Purchasing and Disposal Decision-Making

Cultivate sustainable purchasing and disposal decisions

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2021 - June 2022: 
Goal: 

Materials Outreach and Engagement

ACHIEVED

By 2020, create and launch an engagement strategy to empower Yale students, staff, and faculty to make responsible materials management choices, including communications about purchasing volume for key commodities; reuse; and diversion of materials from the waste stream.

Progress: 

This goal was achieved in 2020, and continued reporting will be done under the new goals of “Waste Diversion” and “Green Cleaning.”

Goal: 

Waste Diversion

WE COULD DO BETTER

By 2025, divert 60% of materials while maintaining or reducing overall volume of waste.

Progress: 

We diverted 36% of our waste in 2022, which is a 10% increase from last year but still not as high as our pre-pandemic diversion rate. Overall materials usage (the combined tonnage of municipal solid waste, single-stream recycling, and food waste) was down 19% from pre-pandemic usage (2019).

Goal: 

Green Cleaning

WE COULD DO BETTER

By 2025, 40% of cleaning chemicals used, by volume, should be green-preferred or green-certified.

Progress: 

Due to competing priorities and shifts in capacity, data on University-purchased cleaning chemicals that were green-preferred or green-certified was unavailable in 2022.

Goal: 

Reuse

ON TRACK

By 2025, create a suite of coordinated solutions for exploring inflow and outflow of high-volume materials by identifying opportunities for reuse within Yale, the New Haven community, and the region.

Progress: 

Spring Salvage, the undergraduate student moveout program, resumed after a pandemic-related hiatus. In addition, conversations about a new online reuse platform are again underway after being put on hold during the pandemic.