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Illustration by Maria Paula Calderon

Sustainability Across the Global Network University

Shaping attitude to promote our common environmental goal creates long-lasting impacts that go beyond the university years of NYU students.

Dec 2, 2018

NYU aims to be the greenest U.S. urban campus by reducing 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. These goals specifically apply to the New York campus, but the issue of environmental sustainability is a global one that requires a combined effort across the global network. Although no clear goals have been set at the other campuses, the environmental movement is very active among students at NYU’s three portal sites: New York, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. At New York, student groups such as Earth Matters, Citizens Climate Lobby, NYU Divest and Take Back the Tap are active. Similarly, Green Shanghai is active, and Ecoherence as well as Green House are focused on environmental issues in Abu Dhabi.
Although the NYU administration can play a pivotal role in making structural changes that will reduce the university’s carbon footprint, student organizations are essential to create a culture of environmental and sustainable stewardship among the student body. Shaping attitudes to promote this common environmental goal creates long-lasting impacts that go beyond the university years of NYU students.
The sustainability groups across NYU’s Global Network are demonstrating that sustainability is a broad field. “Student initiatives are a great way to increase awareness of students on campus and that sustainability is much more than putting the right container in the right place,” said Josh Jensen, an NYU Shanghai student involved with Green Shanghai.
Jensen’s sentiment is echoed by students. “We have diversified [our] events to all angles of environmentalism including water conservation and composting,” said Lilly Ferris, from Earth Matters at NYU New York.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, Ecoherence has been focused on improving the domains of waste reduction, waste management and encouraging sustainable lifestyles. Other organizations take a different approach. “Green House is an environmental and climate policy think tank that has been working closely with the administration to provide sustainability policy recommendations,” said Rashtra Raj Bhandari, Class of 2019, who works with both Ecoherence and Green House. Through these approaches, these groups take a bottom-up approach to promote sustainability that focuses on students.
Environmental advocacy groups around the NYU campuses have connected students interested in sustainability and have created a ripple effect throughout the global network. Jensen said that Green Shanghai has been working with key stakeholders including the cafeteria to implement policies where the first choice would be the sustainable choice. Similarly, Ecoherence has been tackling sustainability issues specific to campus policy. “We have been working with the Library and Serco to get more water dispensers and waste segregated trash cans in the library,” said Elza Meiksane, Class of 2022 and a member of Ecoherence. Innovative action projects to shape culture on sustainability take place across the global network through work with students and the administration.
One event organized by Green Shanghai is the Trash Fashion Show. Drawing inspiration from this, Ecoherence also organized its first Trashion show this semester in Abu Dhabi. Similarly, the New York campus had organized events highlighting sustainable fashion. Earth Matters and Ecoherence have both organized movie screenings of A Plastic Ocean. No Waste November and Zero Waste Week are two additional initiatives across the campuses. Go Green Week is an NYU-wide event that is celebrated on all three campuses on the theme of environmental sustainability, with all three campuses hosting different events during the same week every year.
Although the campuses are situated in different environments, there is a joint effort from the student body to make NYU a more sustainable university. However, without clear targets it is difficult to evaluate these sustainability initiatives. Going forward, students involved in sustainability efforts across the global network will likely increase collaborative efforts to scale up initiatives, as well as to advocate for a common vision across campuses. Support from NYU at all these levels is imperative to help students achieve these aspirations.
Raunak Shrestha is a contributing writer. Email at
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