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New York University

Sustainability Progress

NYU successfully lowered its total emissions by more than 25% through energy efficiency and conservation, from 180,000 MTCE (metric tons of carbon equivalent) in FY 2006 to 124,000 MTCE in FY 2010.

Those reductions are enhanced by an additional 20% cut in emissions resulting from the completed cogeneration power plant expansion and renovation in 2011. The $120 million plant is larger, cleaner, and more efficient than its predecessor, and accounts for the single largest reduction wedge in NYU's Climate Action Plan by avoiding 40,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, a 23% decrease below University-wide FY 2006 emissions.

NYU Operations has already implemented a number of energy, water, and resource-saving initiatives. Energy conservation measures include: relamping (retrofitting existing buildings with new lighting); building schedules (reducing lighting and HVAC during unoccupied periods); HVAC dorm occupancy controls (installing 2,500 occupancy sensors on HVAC in student residences); compact fluorescent light bulbs (37,000 CFLs installed or distributed); personal computers (shutting down personal computers when not in use); lighting occupancy sensors (3,500 automatic lighting controls installed); bulb specification and rebulbing (NYU-wide policy on efficient lighting); and recommissioning (“tuning” large building HVAC systems). These measures have resulted in substantial cost savings as well.

Water conservation efforts include scheduled retrofits of all residence halls with high-efficiency faucets and showerheads, a greywater reuse pilot project, and a disposable water bottle reduction campaign spearheaded by Dining Services, which removed the bottles from meal plans on campus. Administrative offices are beginning to install tap water filters to replace standard jug water coolers. Operations is collaborating with NYC agencies to obtain new “smart” water meters in all NYU buildings to enhance tracking and conservation efforts.

Recycling and Waste Reduction

Recycling Services has undertaken significant efforts to reduce waste and continues to refine and expand recycling options offered on campus

In spring 2008, NYU Recycling Services conducted its first waste characterization study of the University, which provided important data on the composition of NYU's waste and potential areas to target for waste minimization. NYU also secured a new hauling contract with innovative collection processes of waste, including single-stream recycling, composting, and post-trash collection sorting of some recyclables. Single-stream recycling (combining mixed recycling in one bin) was introduced in all academic and administrative spaces during 2010. This initiative reduces the number of truck pickups, increases the overall recycling rate, and has the potential of significantly increasing the waste diversion rate.

Green Buildings

LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. NYU is committed to meeting LEED standards for all new construction and renovation, with LEED Silver standards as its baseline goal. The renovation of the Gallatin School building at 1 Washington Place received a LEED Gold certification in June 2009. Three other projects currently underway – the Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, Wilf Hall, and the NYU in Washington DC Center – will be built to LEED Silver standards or higher. These projects set precedents for new and renovated buildings to improve energy performance and reduce associated environmental and economic impacts.


According to NYU's extensive transportation and commuting survey in 2009, less than 2% of the university community commutes to Washington Square via private car or taxi. NYU students, faculty, and staff already walk, bike, or access public transit options more consistently than their peers at nearly any other institution in the United States.

NYU also operates its own bus system, which it continues to study and adjust to minimize its environmental impact. In Fall 2009, NYU streamlined its bus routes and reduced bus stops, moves that are projected to cut the usage of diesel fuel by an estimated 16% and decrease the number of large vehicles traveling through lower Manhattan by an estimated 22%. The curtailed bus system places increased importance on NYU's looking for possible development sites located near mass transportation, as evidenced in the 2031 plan. NYU's new shuttle bus fleet contract specifies the replacement of one bus per year with an equivalent high-performance, hybrid-electric bus that will achieve substantially higher mileage per gallon and continue to improve local air quality. The first of these buses arrived ahead of schedule in early 2011. Other transportation measures have included new bicycle recycling and donation programs, development of a pilot community bicycle-sharing system, creating new bicycle storage, and developing bicycle anti-theft and education programs.

However, there is a rationale, for the moment, for retaining a University bus system. A significant need, for example, is to link Washington Square to the health corridor on First Avenue, which is some distance from a subway line. Faculty, administrators, and students all require easily access to reach physicians and other Medical and Dental School resources located in that area. The university bus system also alleviates safety concerns by providing secure, direct transportation for students who remain on campus late in the evening for classes, study groups, or events. The task ahead will be to meet these legitimate needs while continuing to downsize and "green" our bus system.


Led by Dining Services, NYU has piloted sustainable food options, removed bottled water from student meal plans, and implemented trayless dining, an initiative that has reduced plate waste per meal by 44%. NYU's institutional food waste composting initiative – the largest in Manhattan – processes both preparation scraps and plate waste, collecting thousands of pounds per month.


With new purchasing guidelines established in FY 2008, NYU now purchases recycled paper with a minimum of 30% post-consumer content; buys Energy Star-labeled electronics, appliances, and office equipment; utilizes recycled furniture from the Asset Management Office or purchases green-certified office furniture when available; and prints and copies double-sided whenever possible.

Gardening and Landscaping

The NYU Garden Shop uses organic landscaping management techniques in all areas of its operation, in keeping with its commitment to provide innovative, sustainable landscape care. The Garden Shop strives to use NYU's open space and planted areas to serve a variety of functions, including teaching, research, and public service. It is always looking for new ways to integrate native species and edibles into existing spaces – for example, the placement of edibles in planters near Washington Square Park. The Garden Shop established a Native Woodland Garden, which brings to life New York's pre-European ecological past, and also maintains the Healthy Landscape Demonstration Garden.