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Planetary Problems Require Planetary Solutions

PSG Student Participants
Planetary Solutions Generator 2022 organizers
Top of page - the 2022 PSG participants!

Above - the organizers: Peter Boyd, Urvi Talaty, Victoria Mansfield, Pratima Garg, Maggie Thompson

The Planetary Solutions Generator offers Yale students the opportunity to participate in a passionate and inspired community of innovators. These students want to get in the “sandbox” and create new ideas and possible ventures that can help mitigate impacts of the climate change crisis.

This year, seven teams of students spent six weeks working to generate impactful solutions to planetary problems – including policy, business, finance, and social – from a systems-thinking perspective. 

During the Planetary Solutions Generator Showcase on March 10, 2022, each team had the chance to present their solutions in front of a live audience, answer questions, and receive feedback. 

We know planetary problems require planetary solutions.

Here’s what they proposed:

Teams + descriptions

Environment Waste Eliminators (EWE)

  • Chloe Hou (Yale School of Architecture) 
  • Jenna Starr (Yale School of Management) 
  • Allyson Beach (Yale School of the Environment)
 

How can we reduce non-food waste in the global value chain? How can companies be incentivized to reintegrate “waste” materials into their value chains?  

Specifically looking at home building in the construction industry, the Environmental Waste Eliminators (EWE) team explored ways to ensure that new construction doesn’t lead to excessive waste through three approaches:

  1. Preventing waste
  2. Incentivizing stakeholders to care about excessive waste
  3. Repurposing waste
 

To address the holes in current solutions, the team proposed consolidating current solutions into the creation of an “EWE certified” standard, similar to a LEED certification, to prevent waste through incentives for stakeholders to repurpose, dispose of and reduce waste.

Deep Energy Retrofit

  • Amelie Zhang (Yale School of Management) 
  • Christina Lee (Yale College, Environmental Engineering)
  • Lydia Wu (Yale School of Management)

Did you know that building operations – lighting, cooling, and heating – account for about 28% of greenhouse gas emissions?

 

Beyond traditional retrofits, deep energy retrofits, an energy conservation measure, achieve greater energy efficiency in existing buildings by taking a whole-building approach and addressing multiple systems at once.

 

The Deep Energy Retrofit team proposed solutions and models to address the problem through technology, business, and public policy and examined how these fields will need to intersect to create a systems-thinking approach, in order to promote the adaptation of deep energy retrofits in the residential sector. 

Yale Compost Collaboration

  • Mikaele Ymker (Yale College, Environmental Studies)
  • Nisreen Abo-Sido (Yale School of the Environment)
  • Ritika Jain (Yale School of Management)
 

Composting is not just for the eco-friendly homeowner. 

Composting is a critical element of a sustainable food cycle, reducing food waste and methane emissions from degrading organic matter and providing a nutrient-rich soil amendment. However, the current ability for Yale graduate students living in New Haven to compost their kitchen scraps is limited.

The Yale Compost Collaboration sought to examine how composting can become more common and accessible for students and community members. A 30 person survey of graduate students found that, in order, cost, location, and knowledge were the largest barriers to composting for Yale graduate students.

To increase the number of students and community members in the Greater New Haven area who have access to composting and composting services the Yale Compost Collaborative proposed that reduced or eliminated the biggest barriers to composting:

 
  1. Subsidized home collection
  2. Campus collection for students
  3. Education and outreach
 

RE-Flower

  • Emily Goddard (Yale School of Public Health)
  • Signe Ferguson (Yale School of Architecture) 
  • Dahlia Leffell (Yale School of Management) 
 

22% of New Haven residents are food insecure – about double the national average. RE-Flower wants to change that. 

While food banks and other resources can help, they face limitations such as staffing to provide continued access and stigma.

A concept born out of mutual aid programs that popped up during the pandemic, RE-Flower proposes strategically positioning community fridges in neighborhoods with high levels of food insecurity and powering them through “sunflowers” and “wind roses,” small-scale solar panels and wind turbines that are able to provide clean and freestanding energy to the fridges. In order to actively involve community members, RE-Flower plans to partner with existing local urban agriculture organizations, such as Gather New Haven, and commission local artists to design and decorate fridges.

 

SASSY+

  • Alessandro Zulli (PhD Student, School of Engineering and Applied Science)
  • Isobel Campbell (Yale School of the Environment)
 

Let’s talk about climate change. SASSY + has a simple goal in mind: transform corporate sustainability culture with actionable insights. 

Expanding on SASSY, or the Six Americas Survey created by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which breaks down attitudes towards climate change into six different categories, SASSY+ seeks to build on the existing SASSY survey to identify results in order to create actionable insights. 

In order to do so, the SASSY+ team has developed a clustering program that uses SASSY data combined with employee data provided by the firm to identify environmental attitudes across subgroups such as departments, branch location, and seniority.

With actionable recommendations for companies to improve their ESG, SASSY+ believes that organizations will be willing to invest more in the growth of this sector. SASSY + plans to survey company leadership and employees, identify subcultures across different demographics and create tailored recommendations for organizations to invest in. 

 

EnCOR

  • Alice Dyer (Yale College, Cognitive Science)
  • Elise Guinee Cooper (Yale School of the Environment)
  • Rose Hansen (Yale College, Environmental Studies)
 

How can we make changes to our impact on the environment? Well, who is we?

Student groups are excited about environmental sustainability but often have limited tools to achieve it. Meanwhile, Yale has the power to achieve meaningful change but is less able to move quickly. The Environmental Culture of Responsibility (EnCOR) examined ways to pair students' eagerness to make impactful change with Yale’s power to make change happen.

EnCOR seeks to address this problem by serving as the branch between student groups and Yale. 

To begin, EnCOR would work with student groups to co-create environmental goals and track their progress. EnCOR would then secure commitments from Yale that correlates with students’ achievements. These achievements will range and can fall under categories such as Food, Activism, Gear and Transportation. Yale would then be held accountable in matching students' efforts in sustainable environmental solutions. 

 

Behavioral Transport

  • Marcella Hager (Yale School of the Environment) 
  • Abel Negussie (Yale College, Molecular Biology)
  • Kiko Wong (Yale College, Applied Physics)

It may be surprising to some, but many students at Yale do not believe they have reliable transportation off-campus and beyond New Haven, especially transportation that is environmentally conscious. Current options, such as Zipcars or rideshares are expensive and not environmentally efficient, while other options such as carpools and coordinating through Facebook and other online groups lack security and safety measures. 

The Behavioral Transport team proposes expanding and improving on existing models of carpooling by developing an app to ensure safety, reliability, and simplicity in carpooling. The app will initially focus on Yale students and other college towns so they can incorporate the school's existing NET ID to ensure safety in payment and transportation. This solution seeks to reduce carbon emissions from existing public transportation systems as well as reduce the cost of using apps such as Uber and Lyft for students.

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The next generation of thinkers

We hope all these ideas put together can change the way we view solutions to planetary problems. Each one of these ideas can help business and organizations, schools, cities and individuals take steps towards reducing the carbon footprint we each leave behind. 

The new generation of thinkers from our Planetary Solutions Generator are ready to take action to create new ideas that will not only benefit our community, but our world.