At a school where the sustainability ethos is written into its DNA, it’s pretty hard to distinguish yourself among committed greens. Yet Susan Wells, director of finance and administration at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, has managed to do exactly that. On April 9, she and the business managers from the Yale Divinity School, Sandy Lynch, and Yale School of Management, Dick Bascome, were jointly presented with this year’s Staff Sustainability Achievement Award by the Yale Office of Sustainability.
“You have each proven to be enthusiastic and committed champions of sustainability,” said Melissa Goodall, associate director of the Office of Sustainability, in notifying the recipients. “We are grateful for the leadership role that each of you has played in your part of campus.”
Goodall pointed out that Wells has shown particular commitment to managing energy consumption in F&ES buildings and to transitioning F&ES to single-stream recycling, and is chair of the school’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, whose membership includes Jorge Barbosa, Lisa Bassani, Sheila Daykin, Dave DeFusco, Kristen Demeter, Paul Draghi, Lisa Fernandez, Gordon Geballe, Rachel Mak, Melanie Quigley and Sara Smiley Smith.
Wells is quick to mention that while she was the lone F&ES recipient, the award reflects the commitment of many at the school. “I see my role as an orchestra leader, a facilitator of tremendous efforts by students and staff,” she said.
She cited master’s student Kristen Demeter for helping her pore through and make sense of the raw data on Kroon Hall’s energy performance, and Associate Dean Gordon Geballe’s continuing role as a steward and champion of the innovative building. Together, they have worked with Yale engineers to make sure that Kroon performs as it was originally envisioned—no small task given that the building used a shopping list of technologies and construction techniques that most American contractors had never heard of.
Since Kroon is technically a Yale building, Wells had to master the argot of Yale engineers steeped in the arcana of the building’s complex systems, working with them on an analysis of those systems that resulted in an updated energy model and customizing the building’s occupancy schedule to maximize the comfort of its occupants while simultaneously reducing energy use.
As a result of the combined efforts, Kroon has performed significantly better in the last nine months than during the same time period in previous years. The building is now consuming only 4 percent more energy over the baseline set by the new model, which experts consider statistically insignificant, and the trend in energy consumption is heading down.
“The reduced consumption has been achieved because of the many improvements that Yale Facilities has made in the building operations and as a result of the reduced occupancy schedule that we implemented,” she said.
Wells also secured F&ES’ early participation in Yale’s single-stream recycling program, which allows recyclers to deposit cans and bottles and other glass, plastic and metal containers in bins with mixed paper. The consolidation of all recycling in one bin typically results in higher participation rates, an increase in items being recycled and greater efficiency in collection.
Working with Wells, master’s student Rachel Mak devised a competition between F&ES buildings to reduce the consumption of paper, which makes up 35 percent of municipal solid waste. Paper usage is being reduced across the board, and the 301 Prospect team recently managed to decrease its printing by 46.6 percent—the most for the month of February.
Mak is also trying to convince people on Science Hill to purchase plastic clamshells, rather than use the Styrofoam ones, when buying lunch at the carts in the Ingalls Rink parking lot. So far, 123 “eco-clamshells” have been sold at F&ES, the Chemistry Department and Kline Biology Tower, as well as at the School of Medicine. (The School of Management is selling its own containers.) In addition, master’s students Jorge Barbosa and Emily Schosid are pushing to implement composting at all F&ES events, with the goal of eliminating garbage—even the mention of it.
“Working with the students is inspiring,” said Wells. “It’s one of my favorite things. It’s good community building—all working together for a common purpose.”