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Monday, May 28, 2007

Class of 2007 Offsets Graduation Travel with Carbon Neutral Commencement

Continuing a tradition started by John Napier Tye '06 last year, Yale Law School's 2007 Commencement was "carbon neutral," meaning that the hundreds of thousands of pounds of greenhouse gas emissions generated by those traveling to New Haven for the occasion were offset by emissions reductions elsewhere, in this case, a donation from WindCurrent, a Maryland-based company that provides organizations with the option to support clean, renewable electricity generated from wind power.

Eleven student organizations co-sponsored the Carbon Neutral Commencement—the American Constitution Society; Americans for Informed Democracy; Animal Legal Defense; the Black Law Students' Association; the Jewish Law Students' Association; the Muslim Law Students' Association; the Pacific Islander, Asian, and Native American Law Students' Association; Yale Democrats; the Yale Environmental Law Association; the Yale Law Christian Fellowship; and Yale Law Women.

Their first step was to survey graduating students to find out where their Commencement guests were coming from and what their mode of transportation would be. From this data, they calculated that the visitors, traveling more than 724,000 miles from as far away as Bangkok, Thailand, would generate some 307,300 pounds of carbon dioxide. Approximately 3,400 pounds of that would come from train travel, 29,600 pounds would come from auto travel, and the bulk of it—274,300 pounds—would come from air travel.

The student groups then contacted WindCurrent with the calculated emissions figures, and the company agreed to donate 400,000 pounds of carbon offsets, extra to account for students who did not participate in the survey. The offsets donated by WindCurrent translate to about 280,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity that will be produced, not by non-renewable sources, but by clean, renewable wind energy.

"We'd like to thank the students in the class of 2007 who made this effort possible by responding to the survey and particularly WindCurrent, who generously donated the offset," said Hannah Jacobs '07. "We are proud to be a part of university-wide efforts to make the world a more livable place for this generation and future generations."
Other efforts Yale University has made to reduce its environmental impact include sponsoring a Sustainable Governance Forum, bringing together experts to improve public communication surrounding climate change science, and contributing $1 million through Yale's Green Fund to support projects aligned with Yale's "Environmental Principles."