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To Make Greener Buildings, Try Innovating around the Edges

The building industry is slow to change. But three Yale alumni are finding ways to make changes on the margins and in the process offer solutions that aren’t easy to ignore.

A aerial photo of a 20th-century building retrofitted with solar panels.
  • Skilled Workers Flee from Polluted Cities, Hampering Economic Growth

    In China, highly educated people are more likely to move away from areas with poor air quality. Reducing pollution could substantially increase GDP there and in other countries, according to a new study co-authored by Yale SOM’s Mushfiq Mobarak.

    A cyclist in Beijing on a day of heavy pollution in December 2015.
  • California’s Path to a Carbon-Neutral Grid

    Elliot Mainzer ’98, CEO of CAISO, explains how California is working to avoid another summer of blackouts even as the state transitions to a carbon-neutral grid.

    A power substation at the LS Power Group Gateway Energy Storage project in Otay Mesa, California.
  • Maintaining Momentum on Climate Change

    Tyler Van Leeuwen ’14 of Shell explains explains how his internal skunkworks team helps move Shell toward its decarbonization goals.

    An illustration of an electric car moving through a landscape of wind turbines
  • To Tackle Plastics Pollution, Embrace a Circular Economy

    To cut down on plastics pollution, says Matt Kopac ’09, sustainable business and innovation manager at Burt’s Bees, we need a fundamentally different approach to sustainability.

    Microplastic collected from the Sargasso Sea. Photo: Tom Gruber.
  • Transforming Energy Infrastructure

    We talked to Elliott Mainzer ’98, who recently began a role overseeing California’s electrical grid, about the progress he’s witnessed and the challenges that remain in creating a fully sustainable energy network.

    Power lines carrying electricity from the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River in Oregon. Photo: Natalie Behring/Getty Images.
  • A Climate for Change

    Judy Samuelson ’82, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program, explores whether this cataclysm will trigger lasting change.

    An illustration of people in business clothes marching with signs
  • Can We Make Recycling Work?

    The ubiquitous blue bin for single-stream recycling obscures a set of tradeoffs and challenges, including contamination that complicates processing and lowers the value of recyclable materials.

    A materials recovery facility (MRF) in Philadelphia in 2017. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
  • Faculty Viewpoints: Will COVID-19 Set Us on a More Sustainable Path?

    In the short term, COVID-19 has brought about what activists and governments haven’t been able to achieve: a sharp drop in carbon emissions. What does the pandemic mean for the longer-term trajectory of efforts to remake our economy in a sustainable way?

    An empty Interstate 110 at rush hour in Los Angeles on April 10, 2020. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
  • Consumption, Numbers and Time: The Arithmetic of Sustenance

    On the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, Yale SOM’s Shyam Sunder writes that humankind must grapple with a fundamental threat to our survival.

    The "blue marble" image of Earth as seen from Apollo 17
  • Can Jeff Bezos’s $10 Billion Climate Pledge Make a Difference?

    We asked Todd Cort, co-director of the Yale Center for Business and the Environment and an expert on sustainable finance, if Bezos’s money was a significant step toward a solution.

    An illustration of rising seas being held back by a wall of money