To celebrate Earth Week and promote a tobacco-free Yale, the first ever Yale Bulldog Butt Hunt was held under sunny skies on the Medical School Campus on April 18th. Almost 30 volunteers came out to collect and count cigarette litter bringing attention to this quietly hazardous issue. Cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item. They are often mistaken as less harmful than other litter, but they contain non-biodegradable materials and toxic chemicals that can last in the environment up to 10 years, threatening our water supply and wildlife.
The event kicked off in front of the Anlyan Center (TAC Building) at 300 Cedar Street. From there, volunteers were directed to target the 10 designated smoking areas, but some found litter concentrated in other spots including: Yale building entrances, loading docks and alcoves, where smoking is prohibited.
Approximately 8,000 cigarette butts were collected during the lunch-hour event! Event organizers, volunteers and passersby were dismayed by the large amount of cigarette litter found within only a two-block radius.
One highly littered area was around the Phyllis Bodel Childcare Center in Harkness Dorm. Over 2,100 cigarette butts were collected from outside the building’s back doorway which is located across from a covered CT Transit bus stop on York Street. That area became problematic a few years ago when Yale-New Haven Hospital painted a blue line to identify a smoke-free zone around their campus sidewalks. There are hopes that the bus stop can be moved away from the daycare center entrance as the ongoing secondhand smoke prevents them from being able to open their windows in the warmer months.
The event was bittersweet for organizers and volunteers. While many felt a sense of accomplishment, others were surprised by the sheer volume of tobacco-related litter. “What a great turnout we had! We are extremely grateful to all the volunteers. But the amount of cigarette litter collected on our Medical School campus in just 60 minutes is troubling,” said Lisa Kimmel, Director of Being Well at Yale. Many volunteers were gratified by the response they got from onlookers. “We were thanked by several people walking by which was unexpected and sincerely appreciated,” said Brianne Mullen, Office of Yale Sustainability.
People came from across the campus to volunteer including several Yale Medical School Physician’s Assistant students, staff and students from the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health, Facilities staff, and members of other Yale departments. All those who participated received a Tobacco-free Yale insulated tote bag a great beachday item. All of the cigarette litter was bagged and will be displayed at the World No Tobacco Day Event, Blow Bubbles Not Smoke, May 31st on Cross Campus.
The Tobacco-Free Yale Bulldog Butt Hunt was a collaboration between the Tobacco-Free Yale Team, Being Well at Yale and the Yale Office of Sustainability. In November 2015, President Salovey announced the start of Yale’s tobacco-free campaign. This event and others like it help promote that ongoing initiative. For more information about a Tobacco-free Yale or the free cessation programs available to Yale faculty, staff and students please visit: http://tobaccofree.yale.edu/.
Video of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyKC9Bp8xcM&t=14s
By Lisa M. Maloney, Yale Administration
With Photos by Iman Ramadan, Yale Administration