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

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2020 - June 2021: 
Goal: 

Healthy Materials Purchasing

UPDATED

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

Progress: 

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

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2020 - June 2021: 
Goal: 

Pay As You Throw

ACHIEVED

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

Progress: 

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.

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

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.

This Objective is supported by the following goals. Progress reflects activities and accomplishments from July 2020 - June 2021: 
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 2024, divert 60% of materials while maintaining or reducing overall volume of waste.

Progress: 

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).  

Goal: 

Green Cleaning

WE COULD DO BETTER

By 2022, 40% of cleaning chemicals used, by volume, should be green preferred or green certified.

Progress: 

Data was unavailable due to the pandemic.

Goal: 

Reuse

UPDATED

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: 

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.