“Sustainability is something where the more you learn about it, the less you can ignore it,” said Hannah Melville-Rea, Class of 2019, as she sipped tea from a slightly worn reusable Year of Zayed mug.
NYU Abu Dhabi is home to multiple Student Interest Groups dedicated to environmental betterment. Coming into NYUAD, Hannah joined SIGs such as Ecoherence and Greenhouse where she and other like-minded inviduals have been working toward creating a more environmentally sustainable campus culture
With its inception in Sama Tower, Ecoherence is one of NYUAD’s oldest SIGs and strives to impact the community with environmentally-focused, tangible initiatives specific to NYUAD’s campus. Previous events include tie-dye sessions on the Highline, sustainability workshops, DIY perfume workshops and movie nights.
“With Ecoherence we’ve tried to bridge people through humor,” said Melville-Rea in discussing Ecoherence’s involvement with the NYUAD community. ”We make funny videos, go nurdle hunting and there's tie dye. We try and make it more explainable.”
While Ecoherence’s efforts are campus focused, Greenhouse and Veggie Might are two other SIGs fighting for the environment on different levels. With several of the committed members and leadership being in two or all three SIGs there is plenty room for collaboration.
“I think in the past academic year, we’ve had more of an overlap in leadership… Greenhouse’s President and members come to Ecoherence’s meetings and vice versa. So we had much more exchange and Veggie Might has made a big comeback since last semester,” said Tom Abi Samra, Class of 2021 and President of Ecoherence.
“There was always this collaboration element but I think its been revived with several members being part of different SIGs, and since we're working towards the same goals, it can only be a good thing.”
In line with the idea of “think globally, act locally,” Greenhouse compliments Ecoherence’s on-campus work by acting as a climate change think tank. Starting right before the move to the Saadiyat campus, Greenhouse was initially introduced as a one-credit course called the UN Climate Task Force. Today they strive for larger policy changes at university and in the UAE.
One of their major accomplishments was attending the UN’s Conference of the Parties in 2015, where the famous Paris Agreement was signed. Students went in with full delegate badge access as part of a collaborative initiative with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment. This is now a yearly collaboration with students attending conferences all around the world.
Last week, Greenhouse was the main driver of a new sustainability survey that asked students their thoughts on environmental behaviour and initiatives on campus. The purpose of this survey is to show stakeholders the significance of sustainability and the view that the student body has on this issue.
“I think that it will give us a sense of what to prioritize and if it’s coming from the students it will have a lot more weight. We’ve made lots of connections with the administration and this survey will make going into those meetings much more productive,” said Melville-Rea commenting on the survey.
Rastra Raj Bhandari, Class of 2019 and Greenhouse President, added to the sustainability discussion.
“The survey will give us more leverage when we go into these discussions. It won't just be, This is what Ecoherence and Greenhouse think. Now we can say, This is what the students think” commented Bhandari.
Both Ecoherence and Greenhouse have big plans for the future both in terms of planning events and vision.
“We have the opportunity to establish NYUAD as a green university in the UAE… A big challenge we’ve been facing is communication. All these SIGs are working on different things and communicating with different people. I would hope for an eventual direct Office of Sustainability,” said Bhandari.
With the momentum from previous semesters behind them, Ecoherence has set up a variety of events for this semester.
“Veganism is going to be a theme this semester. We’re collaborating with Veggie Might during Go Green week. We’ll have a night where we eat vegan food and they can pledge to go vegan for that week. Students will be paired up with a mentor and at the end of the week well have another dinner,” said Abi Samra, in anticipation of this semester's event planning.
“Another thing we’re looking at is similar to the Second Chance Store, where people brought in things that are in good shape but they no longer use, we’re thinking of having a swap structure. People can bring in clothes that no longer fit them or that they don’t wear anymore and swap them with someone else.”
Through the hard work and commitment from several individuals, the environmental SIGs have pushed for and created some powerful change, giving NYUAD a brief but rich history of taking a stand on climate change and sustainability.
Taj Chapman is Features Editor. Email him at email@example.com