Coming from Tennessee, I’ve struggled to keep from drowning in a sea of “red” when it comes to most political, social, economic, and environmental issues. Many vehicles are adorned with bumper stickers that claim, “Tennessee is Bush Country.” Camouflage is worn to go turkey hunting at the crack of dawn, then to Wal-Mart, then perhaps (and this happened more often than I’d care to tabulate) to school; school where environmental education is perfunctory. School where the idea of global warming is readily dismissed as the height of fiction or as a terror tactic or as something that “still needed to be proven.”
Considering the rural setting in which I grew up, I wondered why the rural voices weren’t the ones that were crying the loudest when it seemed like our rustic environment was in danger. Why didn’t the collective voice of the Appalachian hunters, hikers, and mountaineers bellow when any shred of proof signaled an assault on the environment that surrounded us? Instead, those voices adopted ignorance. It was the ice caps that were melting, anyway—who needs them?
It was, therefore, surprising to me to see such a conscious effort to actually reduce, reuse, and recycle when I got to Yale. And not only to try to not waste as much, but to help reduce our negative impact on the environment in creative ways. I’m continually shocked by how Yale athletics have been used as a venue for conservation of energy and resources.
The Bulldog Sustainability initiative started in 2008 by taking Payne Whitney Gymnasium, Yale’s monolithic (formally unsustainable) symbol of power and fortitude and turning it into an source of actual power and fortitude. Which makes a shit-ton of sense when you consider how much energy is expended there.
For example, let’s say that hypothetically you’ve been hitting the 30-packs of Budweiser a little hard (don’t we all) or your unlimited meal plan has gotten the best of you. As a result, your favorite pair of skinny jeans no longer accommodate your girth. You can turn some of that gluttony guilt into power to charge your iPod or cell phone. The University has recognized that we can do more than just reduce, reuse, and recycle.
But what really fascinates me is the collision of human sweat, Maxwell’s equations (what up, Physics 181b), and dedication to the environment. This is what makes Bulldog Sustainability unique. It requires thinking beyond the conventionally established methods of energy use, salvation, and reuse. Bulldog Sustainability takes that shit to the next level; it gives “110 percent,” if you will.
Recycling is essential in ensuring that our carbon footprint doesn’t continue to grow, but it is this notion of having a net expenditure of energy as near to zero as possible that will shape the future of combat against climate-change.
Extending from Payne Whitney Gymnasium is the student-run arm of this organiztion. This “Green Team” is comprised of 20 student-athletes from 12 varsity teams that serve as researchers and analysts. Students who are familiar with the expenditure of massive amounts of energy. Energy that will one day show its fruits in more than just beads of sweat.
It’s inspiring to think of a future where most of the energy that’s sapped out of our bodies can be used for something greater than improvement of self-image, the quest for a starting position, or the fight for a trophy. Imagine having the lights in Lee Amphitheater being lit by power induced from the rowing machines in the nearby crew tanks. Or perhaps the bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines in the Adrian “Ace” Israel Fitness Center will supply the room’s own air-conditioning in hot-as-balls summer months.