Sustain This

Last week, the Sustainability Committee of Student Government and ADNH Compass, the food service company at NYU Abu Dhabi, began a program to encourage ...

Feb 14, 2015

Last week, the Sustainability Committee of Student Government and ADNH Compass, the food service company at NYU Abu Dhabi, began a program to encourage reduction of food waste. The food waste numbers were astounding — 75 kg of food are wasted each day in the two dining halls of Saadiyat Campus. Not all of this waste is attributable to eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome, but most waste can be linked to excessively full plates.
The key to the success of this initiative is individual responsibility. Upon the initiative’s announcement, a few students complained that they were being unwillingly overserved. The dining hall management quickly took steps to address this problem, but it is important to realize that being assertive is OK when it comes to the food items that are put on a plate
It is up to members of the community to internalize the important lesson of reducing waste in the dining halls so that this initiative can be sustained over time. The food displays in the vestibules of the dining halls serve as strong reminders of the quantity of food that is wasted each week, but those displays will soon disappear. Will members of our community remember the importance of asking for less food and taking it upon themselves to ask for reductions once the reminders are gone?
Further issues surrounding sustainability remain to be addressed. The most obvious issue is the takeaway containers available in the dining halls. These containers are made of styrofoam. The school uses 3,000 of these containers each week. The Sustainability Committee is working on a plan to cut that usage to zero. Pending approvals of a plan for the implementation of a reusable container program, the styrofoam containers may soon disappear.
Some of our daily habits remain extremely wasteful. It is still unclear how many water bottles the campus consumes on a daily basis, but the environmental impact of so many water bottles is devastating. The school has yet to confirm if a contract for recycling is in place, meaning the bottles consumed on campus likely end up in a landfill. It is a challenge to reduce plastic water bottle consumption, but the tools are there to make it happen.
Moving forward, there are many elements of campus sustainability to be addressed. Some students are seeking support for creating a position within the Operations Department to focus solely on sustainability issues, but I don’t think this is necessary. To sustain progress toward sustainability, members of the community must internalize the reasons for maintaining a lighter footprint while folks who care deeply about sustainability need to find innovative solutions to sustainability issues that do not disrupt our daily lives. It is incumbent upon all of us to remain open to experiencing some minor inconveniences to protect the environment.
Corey Meyer is managing editor. Email him at
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