Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel
Ecoherence, a Student Interest Group focused on improving NYU Abu Dhabi’s campus sustainability, is currently engaging with the administration and the Sustainability Executive Committee, a committee composed of students, faculty, administration and staff, regarding possible modifications to campus policies to improve sustainability.
As of now, Ecoherence’s primary goal is to tackle excessive waste from ADNH Compass’ Starbucks stations on campus. Currently, students can take their own mugs to Starbucks, but there is no discounted price for doing so.
“Hopefully we can get a discount for anyone who brings their own mug to Starbucks,” said Kate Melville-Rea, President of Ecoherence and Student Government Officer of Communications.
At Blacksmith Coffee Company, a policy similar to the one Ecoherence is pursuing for Starbucks is already in place. Customers can bring their own mug and pay a discounted price of 10 AED for their coffee.
Melville-Rea expressed caution for the immediacy of potential changes. Ecoherence has submitted a formal recommendation to the Sustainability Executive Committee, but there is still a very long process before the administration, ADNH, health standards officials and Starbucks all sign off on the idea.
“There really isn’t a lot to say on [Starbucks] at the moment because it is a commercial entity that doesn’t report directly to NYUAD. What we can do by virtue of our buying power is vote for them to make a change — we have communicated with them, but I don’t know where that conversation is at,” said Terence Monahan, Director of Environmental Health & Safety, regarding a possible timeline for changes.
Monahan, who also serves on the Sustainability Executive Committee, emphasized that the committee is not capable of direct decisions but rather only recommendations to the administration on behalf of students, faculty and staff.
If obtaining a discounted price for those who bring mugs is not possible, Ecoherence’s second proposal is a stamp system, in which students would receive a free coffee after buying a certain number of coffees with their own mug.
Ecoherence has been targeting the waste produced from Starbucks cups because the Starbucks cups for hot coffee and the straws for cold drinks aren’t currently recyclable. An additional problem is that Starbucks cups mistakenly put in paper recycling can drip coffee into the rest of the recycling container, contaminating otherwise recyclable paper.
Melville-Rea identified excessive printing paper use as another sustainability improvement being discussed. There is currently no limit on student usage of paper and ink, leaving room for misuse. Melville-Rea said she plans to talk to Information Technology Services in the coming days to gauge their opinion on the matter, but it appears to have a similarly long-term timeline as the Starbucks changes. Monahan said that while no decision is close to being made, he and members of the Executive Sustainability Committee think the idea is valid.
“It makes sense because it saves resources and saves money because it makes people think before hitting the print key,” said Monahan.
Ecoherence and the Executive Sustainability Committee’s most noticeable reform last year, the removal of 500 milliliter water bottles from campus, required an equally long process before being finalized. The Executive Sustainability Committee’s next meeting takes place on Oct. 8, after which time the potential trajectory of these changes will become clearer.
Herbert Crowther is Deputy News Editor. Email him at [email protected]