YBG Sustainability Initiative Update | June 2021

Impact of the Sustainability Initiative Fund

June 2021

Dear Friends of Yale Blue Green, 

We are writing with an update on the new Sustainability Fund in hopes that you will consider making a gift as we commemorate Earth Day. Thanks to the generosity of many Yale alumni, over the last year the Fund raised $40,000 to support the Office of Sustainability.

The Sustainability Fund is already having an impact. In February, Melissa Goodall, Former Deputy Director of the Yale Office of Sustainability (YOS), reported on the first year’s impact of the Sustainability Fund, a current use fund for students, student research, programs, events, marketing, online communication, and interdisciplinary collaboration, established in 2020. We are grateful to Melissa for a successful launch of the fund and for all her years of service to Yale as she moves to take on a new position with the University of Pennsylvania.

In the 2020-21 academic year, the Fund has supported work in three areas:

The Global University Climate Forum — In summer 2020, YOS launched a program modeled on programs by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), where Yale is a member. This program is aimed at inspiring student climate activists around the world to develop and execute an actionable project that would yield measurable results over the course of six months. The Office accepted 135 teams of students – just shy of 600 students overall – from 44 countries. During this academic year, they have participated in workshops, monthly briefings, and mentoring with YBG alumni. A Yale publication will present their work at COP26 in November 2021. The Fund supported the work of a Yale junior, Jon Michel, to coordinate student outreach and social media. 

The Biodiversity Plan —This year YOS is developing a Campus Biodiversity Plan, headed by Mairéad Brennan YC ‘20 in coordination with Yale School of the Environment and Yale Grounds Maintenance. The team is developing recommended tree and plant lists, chemical use and maintenance standards, pervious and impervious surfaces details, educational and research opportunities and a business case for cultivating biodiversity on campus. The maps and the Biodiversity Plan should be done this coming summer. The Fund is supporting one student working on this effort.

The Arts Area Green Space — As part of the effort to develop sustainability action plans for nearly all the professional schools, we have focused on three. Representatives of Art, Architecture, and Drama have collaborated to promote safe and healthy reuse of materials, enhance greenspaces in their area, and prevent bird strikes on their buildings. This effort has been coordinated by Nivanthi Karunaratne, School of Music ’20, and the Grounds manager for that area. The YBG Sustainability Fund will provide supplemental funds to support the vision.

Looking ahead, Ginger Chapman, Director of the Office of Sustainability, envisions that Yale Sustainability will be able to support an expanded list of projects this year coordinated by her team. We also hope to support the new Planetary Solutions Initiative, an interdisciplinary, research-focused effort to harness Yale’s leadership to address the climate crisis.

We hope you will support the Sustainability Fund in 2021. We know that you get many requests for your giving, but if you care about Yale and sustainability, we hope you can make this Fund a priority. Just go to the Yale giving page Yale giving page and type in “YBG Sustainability Fund” in the box.  We also hope you will sign the YaleBlue Green Sustainability Initiative, an appeal backed by nearly 500 Yale alums asking the university to take even bolder leadership to address the global challenge of climate change and sustainability https://yalebluegreen.org/initiative-sign/.

Thanks and go Yale Blue Green!

Committee Updates

The YBG Sustainability Initiative continues to move forward. An update on Committee work is below.
Sustainability Initiative Leadership:  A subset of the Leadership group is working with Casey Pickett of the Provost’s

Sustainability Initiative Leadership Committee (SILC):  A subset of SILC is working with Casey Pickett of the Provost’s office.  We are working to integrate our ideas with the Planetary Solutions Project (see below) and to look for other applicable opportunities for multidisciplinary efforts, both within the context of Planetary Solutions and independently. 
Identifying Alumni in Sustainability:  SILC continues to identify and reach out to alumni from across the University who have worked in Sustainability, and who can either speak with faculty in meetings coordinated through Planetary Solutions and/or present or participate in YBG webinars, to bring the multidisciplinary experience they have to the Planetary Solutions Project and/ or to the YBG Sustainability Initiative. We welcome suggestions from YBG members. This effort has spun off a new Webinar committee, see below.

Planetary Solutions Project

The Project is now developing ideas presented at an internal Yale symposium in early December.   They now have a web site  https://planetarysolutions.yale.edu/.    While Planetary Solutions does not broadly embrace Sustainability, it addresses many of the concerns that we have identified in our proposal and plan for the Sustainability Initiative, including climate change and biodiversity. The Project also encourages the inclusion of the social sciences and humanities and emphasizes multidisciplinary approaches to addressing these planetary issues. The Planetary Solutions Project team made a presentation to the virtual Yale College reunion. Although there were technical difficulties (not their fault), the presentation was very interesting.The updated website is available here: https://planetarysolutions.yale.edu/

Green Blocks Initiative:

Green Blocks Initiative (GBI) is preparing to launch the pilot modules soon. The modules Food and Domiciles have the information ready. The team is learning how to load the information onto the web page. The survey results are being incorporated into future planning.Green Blocks Initiative (GBI) is in progressing in developing modules. The modules Food and Home have (initial articles posted). The team is in the process of loading new articles onto the web page. The survey results are being incorporated into future planning. New submissions are welcome, and the deadline for the next round of submissions is July 1.

Green Blocks is a new alumni engagement resource that offers event ideas for alumni to host in their town or neighborhood.  Each Green Block module will offer suggestions for how to take action or put on a turnkey sustainability event, with research for further discussion, to drive societal change. We are currently building two modules: Food and Home.  Personal action, Community involvement, Global vision are the guidelines for module development. We are looking for new ideas for modules. If you have ideas and want to help, please email Margot McMahon at YBGreenBlocks@gmail.com or Mcmahonmargot@gmail.com.


The Funding committee has been exploring ways to encourage sustainability and environmental giving to Yale, across the University. We have been sharing a draft information document, called Giving Green to Yale, to the relevant University development officers to get feedback.
We are close to posting that document on the YBG website.  The Sustainability Fund that YBG developed is one path, and we are pleased that the Fund received $40,000 in its first year.  We received a report on how the fund has been spent in the 20-21 academic year, supporting students.  Three areas that the fund supported were student participation in the Global University Climate Forum leading to COP26, development of a Campus Biodiversity Plan, and the creation of an Arts Area Green Space.

Please give if you can at:https://secure.yale.imodules.com/s/1667/giving/17/form.aspx?sid=1667&gid=52&pgid=1811&cid=5605&dids=402&bledit=0   Just type in ” YBG sustainability fund “


The majority of YBG’s 30+ mentor/mentee pairs have now been working together and appear to be proceeding productively.  We need more mentors to meet the needs of the students looking for mentors! We encourage all to submit an application to be a mentor. This is a great way to have an impact on bringing more diverse and inquiring minds into the environmental and sustainability space! We will transition to working with the YBG group and mentoring system in Cross Campus, but that may take some time. 
In the meantime, to learn more and submit an application to be a mentor or mentee, please visit: yalebluegreen.org/mentoring.  


We did participate in this year’s virtual reunions on June 4 and 5. We had a time from 4-6 each day for a “virtual expo booth” to share info about YBG and the Sustainability Initiative. We were pleased to meet a few new alums who signed up for YBG.

Sustainability Webinars:

The webinar committee is just starting, but the goal is to develop distinct webinars that focus on sustainability. One goal will be to have webinars that include alumni, faculty and students.