Associate Dean Mike Thompson Receives Environmental Stewardship Award

Mike K. Thompson was recently awarded the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy’s Environmental Stewardship Award in recognition of his leadership on new initiatives seeking to achieve greater sustainability at Yale Law School.

Thompson, with the help of YLS student David Barillari ’15, has quite literally brightened the halls of the Law School through a pilot program to replace incandescent lighting in the school’s dining hall and auditorium with dimmable LED’s that are actually brighter than the 100-watt tungsten bulbs currently in use.

While nearly all of the lights at the Law School are now compact fluorescents (CFLs), the dining hall and auditorium still use the energy-intensive tungsten bulbs. But manufacturers have recently released LEDs capable of replacing them, and Thomspon and Barillari are testing samples to see which ones will best meet the school’s needs.

Thompson, who has been the Associate Dean overseeing Building and Dining Services since 1996, also installed the law school’s first Brita hydration system to help reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles. In 2011 – the last year for which statistics are available – total bottled water sales in the US reached 9.1 billion gallons, or 29.2 gallons per capita, which translates into roughly 220 half-liter bottles for every person in the country.

Leaving questions of bottled water safety and expense aside, the recycling rate for PET, the plastic commonly used in water bottles, is only 29 percent. The Brita system, according to company statistics, can replace as many as 36,000 half-liter, single-use bottles every year.

Or, considering the 220-bottle-per-person statistic, the Brita could offset bottled water use for 163 people annually – nearly the entire YLS class of 2015. These initiatives have made positive improvements at the school that have been noticed by both students and members of the faculty.

“The Brita makes it a lot easier for students to avoid buying bottled water and do their small part to make the law school more sustainable,” said Halley Epstein, YLS ’14.

“Everyone who spends time at YLS knows that Dean Thompson is the heart and soul of the place,” said Doug Kysar, Joseph M. Field ’55 Professor of Law at YLS. “He is keenly aware of the impacts of everything we do here – on students, on the community, and on the environment – and he works tirelessly to ensure that those impacts are positive and enduring.”