Ask Me Anything: The Sustainability Committee

On Nov. 1, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Sustainability Committee and the Student Interest Group Ecoherence hosted an Ask Me Anything. Here is a selection of ...

On Nov. 1, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Sustainability Committee and the Student Interest Group Ecoherence hosted an Ask Me Anything. Here is a selection of questions posed by students and faculty, with answers from Terry Monahan, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, as well as representatives of the Sustainability Committee, Student Life and the Operations department. The complete answers are published on the Sustainability Committee’s Facebook page.

How beneficial was removing the disposable cups from the coffee stations across campus?

Impact of the disposable paper cup removal will be gauged over the next month or so. Results will be published on the Sustainability Committee’s webpage. Studies suggest that once a mug is used between 18 and 35 times, the environmental benefits outweigh the environmental cost — water, energy and waste — of using paper cups on those occasions.
The decision to remove disposable cups was taken in a unanimous vote by the Sustainability Executive Committee and the Sustainability Steering Committee, which consists of subject matter experts, stakeholders and students. All involved parties decided to take action for the common health and welfare, including hydration, of the community in a sustainable manner. Mugs have already been placed in all of the official pantry areas. Unfortunately, the Academic Resource Center does not have an official pantry area. Thus, we encourage students to bring mugs and tumblers from their own rooms, and wash them in their individual dormitories. We recognize that this is an adjustment to make, but with time it should become a habit and thus less inconvenient. As a fallback option for students who forget to bring their own mugs, we will provide paper cups in the ARC in a limited quantity. We will also work on making coffee tumblers available for sale in the Convenience Store.

Is the water in our taps still being trucked in? If so, what is the inside lining of the trucks made out of? What kind of tubing or piping is used?

Drinking water is piped onto the NYUAD campus by the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company and is tested monthly to ensure it is completely safe to drink. Water trucks are occasionally seen on campus to pump out overflow water from the campus drainage system and not to fill water supplies.

Why are the lawns and gardens watered sometimes in the middle of the day? Doesn't the water evaporate?

NYUAD Operations personnel are aware of the issue and are working to rectify the situation. The mid-day watering will be adjusted to maximize benefit to the lawns and gardens,while minimizing evaporation. Reportedly, the ideal timing should be between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Because of Ecoherence's aggressive advertising on the “harms of paper cups and bags and meat and plastic bottles,” my mind is showing negative feedback towards environment friendliness.

Ecoherence has always endeavored to focus on offering sustainable and eco-friendly practices, and not on shaming community members, which we acknowledge can be counter-productive. Our awareness campaigns have explored biodiversity, taught students how to sort trash and promoted the use of reusable bags and takeaway containers. To those students who took issue with the vegan and vegetarian campaign, we would like to clarify that our aim was merely to point out some more environment-friendly alternatives to meat. We hope to provide accurate information so that members of the NYUAD community can make informed decisions on their own regarding consumption. We sincerely apologize if the language of the campaign made it seem like we were shaming those who eat meat.

What is the total amount of water consumption on campus?

Numbers from Oct. 1 to 14, 2015 are as follows:
Energy consumption, substations and north fields: 1,869,657 kw/h.
Water consumption, including water, irrigation and pool: 342,994 m3.
These figues were provided by Kulvinder Singh, Associate Director of Facility Management at NYUAD.

Can we get information about the plant species on campus? What kind of plants do we have?

The plant species on the NYUAD campus are reportedly indigenous to the area. Information on specific plant species will be posted on the Sustainability web page as the information is verified.

Is there a plan for campus community gardens?

The Gardening SIG has been in talks with various people — professors, faculty, admin etc. — to discuss this, and their plan for now is to assemble a focus group and task force. The current executive board of the Gardening SIG will do the groundwork, and the task force formed will execute the plan next semester in spring 2016.

How feasible is it to ask the university for stronger commitments to sustainability?

This is certainly feasible, and is on the agenda of the Sustainability Executive Committee. We will keep you updated on the specifics of the goals we set. Additionally, the Abu Dhabi government already requires reduction targets. We are dedicated to this important initiative, and have implemented a number of sustainability initiatives including 25 percent reduction in waste. NYUAD is currently recycling over 50 percent of its waste stream.

Do you realize that getting rid of the paper cups actually made people get more paper cups from the convenience store?

For the time being, the Convenience Store still carries paper cups. It is intended that those cups will be phased out shortly and replaced with the sale of mugs. We encourage students to use their own reusable containers whenever possible, such as mugs, tumblers and others.

Why do we not have access to filtered water on campus?

We do, in fact, have ready access to filtered water on campus: tap water is filtered twice before it reaches you. It is also tested by Abu Dhabi Distribution Company before it is delivered in the water mains to the campus and then again regularly upon its arrival.

Where does the garbage and recycling go to, exactly?

NYUAD’s Environmental Service Provider removes normal garbage from campus. Approximately 51 percent of this garbage is being recycled into other products. VEET has a sorting facility in Abu Dhabi, and ships some of the materials to Dubai for actual processing. As a result the university receives a rebate on the cost of rubbish disposal. Additional information can be found on the NYUAD Sustainability webpage.
Louis Plottel, Mitali Banerji and Ritu Muralidharan are contributing writers and also members of the Sustainability Committee. Email them at 
gazelle logo