Learn more about the Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology
Welcome to YDS Sustainability, a Divinity School resource for sharing progress and opportunities as we aspire each day to learn, live, and lead more responsibly into the future. We take seriously the ecological, social, and economic challenges ever-present in our world; and we seek to turn our gifts into good examples that will support our communities and guide our graduates.
YDS Sustainability fosters a sacred commitment to the love and knowledge of God through ecology, human wellness, creation care, and economic viability. The Sustainability Team of students, faculty, and staff cultivates innovative approaches to sustainable living, ministry, worship, and knowledge. We seek an enduring communion as stewards of creation.
Learning, Living, and Leading Together
As sustainability efforts have increased at the Divinity School, YDS Sustainability has evolved from key leadership to wider community ownership. The Sustainability Team of students, staff, and faculty created the 2013-2016 YDS Sustainability Action Plan, which the faculty and student council endorsed in Spring 2014. Today the Sustainability Team’s three working groups lead most of the school’s sustainability efforts and coordinate with student groups, Sterling Divinity Quadrangle partners, and other members of the Yale and New Haven communities.
The joint degree program between the Divinity School and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, along with many other initiatives, creates a first-rate opportunity for academic training in areas of religion and ecology. Both schools take seriously the role of articulating, enacting, and advancing efforts to respond to the crises of climate change, environmental degradation, and other eco-justice issues in our time. The Bioethics Center, the Forum on Religion and Ecology, the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and the Yale Office of Sustainability regularly partner with the Divinity School for lectures, lunch discussions, and other events.
Student-led clubs and initiatives also offer opportunities for learning and living together, including FERNS (Faith, Ecology, Religion, Nature, and Spirituality). The Divinity Farm, established in 2009, also provides a sacred space for students to connect with the land and grow within the community. Run by administrators Blair Nelson and Sparrow Gates, the Divinity Farm allows students to tend an independent garden plot for their own use.
This YDS Sustainability web site serves to share updates, provide useful information, and convey the history and understanding of sustaining YDS over time. Relevant news stories that preceded this web site have been included, when possible, in our news archive. Student Sustainability Coordinators, along with other student leaders connected to these efforts, can be found throughout this site. In addition, the Sustainability Team welcomes ideas, feedback, and support through our opportunities to share community input.
History of Sustainability on the Quad
YDS Sustainability formally began in January 2011 when Sandra Lynch and Ann-Marie Piscitelli, the Director and Associate Director of Finance & Administration, hired two student sustainability coordinators. While this could be considered the official launch of YDS Sustainability, Yale Divinity School has a strong history of sustainable practices and initiatives generated from students, faculty, and staff.
For several years, the student group FERNS (Faith, Ecology, Religion, Nature, Spirituality, formerly the Yale Earth Care Committee, YECC) has worked on a variety of projects and activities within the Quad, the University, and the city of New Haven to raise environmental consciousness. Students have organized No Impact Week events, Earth Day celebrations, community conversations on faith and ecology, an environmental fair, discussions on locally grown food, and screenings of environmental films. FERNS has also been an enthusiastic supporter and participant in Yale Sustainability Week.
YDS faculty, including The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, are also deeply involved in environmental issues as internationally known leaders in their field. Along with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Divinity School has hosted national conferences such as Renewing Hope, Environmental (Dis)Locations, and Religion and Environmental Stewardship, drawing national audiences of theologians, activists, and ethicists to debate and discuss the theological dimensions of eco-justice.
The YDS staff members spearhead several efforts to reduce business waste at the school. For example, custodial staff enthusiastically support the use of ionized water cleaning products. The Divinity School Refectory staff have developed more sustainable practices in the kitchen. Also in the Refectory, YDS is striving to become ZERO WASTE, utilizing composting and recycling bins. We have increased our compost bins from one to four, eliminating two garbage bins and striving to make YDS the first Divinity School to become Zero Waste.
With faculty, students, and staff all expressing a desire to make YDS more sustainable, the school decided to create a Sustainability Action Plan in 2009-10. The plan was created with support from Greenfaith, the Yale Office of Sustainability, and a grant from the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The 2013-2016 YDS Sustainability Action Plan serves as the institutional foundation for the Divinity School’s sustainability efforts in the immediate future. To join in these efforts, please contact a member of our team.
YDS Sustainability Coordinator | Char White
Char White is currently a 2019 MAR Hebrew Bible student, interested preserving farmland and cultivating a closer relationship between humans and the food we eat, and encouraging sustainable systems of clothing production. Char lives and works on a fiber farm in Vermont, where she raises sheep, angora and cashmere goats, and alpacas.
Before arriving at YDS, Char graduated from Mount Holyoke College (2017) with a B.A. in Religion and a minor in Art History.
Her role as Sustainability Coordinator has been spent on creating events focused on providing students with the ability to get in touch with their food systems and learn about sustainable agricultural practices. Char also works with the Office of Sustainability at Yale University, to creat a bridge between YDS and downtown.