More than 1,000 students have signed a pledge to work toward reducing their energy use this semester. The initiative, Take the Pledge, began this month and is part of a new approach to reducing university-wide energy consumption during the fall.
Jeremy Friedman, manager of NYU Sustainability Initiatives, said in the past much of the sustainability efforts have happened behind the scenes. The office now wants to connect with students and inspire and empower them to make behavioral changes.
“The next savings don’t just come from changes in the basements and behind the scenes, they really come by engaging the entire community as a partner,” Friedman said. “We can put in the most efficient light bulbs we want, but if the students leave the lights on, we’re still wasting that energy.”
“There’s a lot of things we want to do to enrich the lives of students here, but we also need to ask them to help us,” he said.
The campaign is asking students to take 10 steps that will help them be more sustainable. These include turning off lights, recycling, using refillable containers, cutting back on meat, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, using compact fluorescent lightbulbs, choosing used goods, using a powerstrip for electronics, using reusable bags and talking to friends about making a change.
The office is using the 2006 university-wide energy consumption as the benchmark for their long-term aim of reducing energy use; the office was established that year. Kayla Santosuosso, program assistant of engagement and communications, said the university is now at about 30 percent reduction since 2006, in part because of the co-generation plant that opened in 2011.
The pledge program was originally created for freshmen moving into their residence halls, but with more students showing interest, the task force decided to continue asking students for pledges.
Santosuosso also said the program will be interactive. The office will check in with students about how their pledge is going and will revamp their social media use.
“We’re going to make sure that students get recognition for the switch in their behavior,” Santosuosso said. “We’re going to be highlighting examples of simple acts of environmental change that students are making on campus via our social media and our website and our newsletters.”
Christopher Schlottmann, associate director of environmental studies, said universities have a responsibility to educate citizens and future leaders about environmental problems.
“Initiatives like this call attention to important issues and often result in measurable conservation gains, resulting in significant energy and financial savings,” Schlottman said.
CAS freshman Emily Koo, who signed the pledge last Thursday, said she intends to help by turning off the lights and other appliances around the house.
“Everyone needs a little help, and the earth does too,” Koo said.
In addition to the initiative, the Office of Sustainability plans to reduce energy through programs such as Bike Share and Green Grant. It also plans to expand the spring NYUnplugged event: a residence hall competition to reduce energy use. This year, Friedman said a new public website will allow people to follow energy usage in real time using Smart meters instead of only receiving emails about who is winning.
The Office of Sustainability is also changing the Green Grant application process. Instead of a one-time opportunity, the office will receive applications on a rolling basis to help fund projects in a more timely fashion.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 24 print edition. Julie DeVito is a senior editor. Email her at email@example.com.
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