Saturday was Earth Day, and to celebrate, the WSN Editorial Board took time to assess recent efforts by the NYU administration to make our school greener. In recent months, the university has made some positive changes, like establishing the Center for Environmental and Animal Protection, but there is still room for improvement. Here is what we think NYU is doing well, doing wrong and what it should do in the future to optimize sustainability.
In the past month, NYU has implemented various programs to improve sustainability. The Center for Environmental and Animal Protection was launched recently to research environmental and animal topics that could be used to inform policy concerning climate change. A new online portal was also released, allowing students to contribute their ideas on how to further sustainability efforts.
In an email to WSN, Assistant Vice President for Sustainability at NYU Cecil Scheib wrote, “About 1,500 students, faculty, staff and administrators have already participated.”
NYU has also begun to use biodegradable take-out containers in dining halls in an effort toward using more eco-friendly materials. Larger projects include an upgraded cogeneration plant and renovations designed to increase sustainability. According to Scheib, renovations follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, which ensures buildings are eco-friendly.
Despite making positive efforts, NYU has more to do. Student protests on April 14 during the Weekend on the Square events are evidence of this, as NYU trustees’ ties with fossil fuel companies has caused outrage. Cutting both direct and indirect ties to fossil fuels is one way NYU could commit to a more sustainable future, in conjunction to smaller steps.
Some small steps NYU can make include taking simple measures to reduce waste in dining halls. For starters, NYU can take after cities like Seattle, Miami Beach and Malibu where plastic straws have been banned in restaurants to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste. Dining halls can also reduce waste by further encouraging students to use reusable containers for meals instead of disposable to-go boxes; they should also stop selling disposable plastic water bottles altogether. While recycling can help eliminate waste to some degree, NYU should gear efforts in waste reduction through reusing, which will cut down on far more waste in the long run.
As helpful and important as the steps listed above are, there are some larger actions that can be taken by the university to increase sustainability efforts. Along with fossil fuel divestment, another major stride NYU can take is instituting a compost system within our residence halls. Composting is an essential method to dispose of waste, allowing waste products to contribute to the the environment rather than harm it — NYU should be utilizing composting more if it is serious about sustainability. Lastly, we should aim to have set standards for sustainable product purchasing. Currently, there are sustainable product options — such as Tree Zero Paper — that department heads can choose to purchase over competing products. However, to ensure these options are being used, NYU should be setting certain quotas for sustainable purchasing.
While NYU has made strides in sustainability thus far, we implore both the administration and the student body to redouble their efforts to make NYU more sustainable. As students, we are each individually responsible for taking advantage of the sustainability resources available at NYU and making efforts toward a greener future.
A version of this appeared in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected].