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.
- 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.
- Yale’s purchasing professionals play an important role in advancing responsible materials management. Learn about Procurement’s sustainability goals and initiatives.
- 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
- Buy or sell, donate and find! Turn to the Eli Surplus Exchange to keep resources on campus.
Our Objectives and Goals
Advance purchasing standards that promote sustainability and resilience
Healthy Materials Purchasing
By 2025, implement sustainable purchasing practices for specific commodity groups.
The first phase of advancing the University’s healthy materials statement will be to create a policy around plastics purchasing. The healthy materials statement reads: “As part of its daily operations, Yale will endeavor to purchase and use products made from materials that do not cause adverse effects to humans or the environment.”
Material Flow Systems
Promote material flow systems that employ use and disposal patterns to inform purchasing decisions
Pay As You Throw
By January 2022, create, pilot, and assess a “pay as you throw” system.
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.
Purchasing and Disposal Decision-Making
Cultivate sustainable purchasing and disposal decisions
To minimize waste created from students moving out in November 2020, the Yale Office of Sustainability offered Donation Days, providing bins in residential colleges to capture items for donation that students might have otherwise thrown away. Donation Days were held in addition to Yale’s annual Spring Salvage program to address the unique residential situation on-campus due to the pandemic. Notably, extending the lifespan of items such as clothing by three months per item can lead to a 5-10% reduction in carbon, water, and waste footprints.
Materials Outreach and Engagement
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.
This goal was achieved in 2020, and continued reporting will be done under the new goals of “Waste Diversion” and “Green Cleaning.”
By 2024, divert 60% of materials while maintaining or reducing overall volume of waste.
We diverted 26% of our waste in 2021, which is a significant decrease in our average diversion rate. Infrastructure and process changes were made due to the pandemic, some of which account for this decrease. However, overall materials usage was down 34% from pre-pandemic usage (2019).
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.
Transitioning to a new online reuse platform was explored and formulation of a pilot was underway, but ultimately put on hold due to the pandemic.