Update from Executive Vice President Michael Alfano
September 14, 2007
NYU transformed itself into a major global research university by creating and seizing opportunities through decades of dedicated effort. Sustainability at NYU offers another important opportunity to harness our community's knowledge and passion to address a key challenge of our time.
Sustainability is a growing priority of NYU students, faculty, and administrators, and its ideas are dramatically altering our lives and our institutions. For me, sustainability means investing in and improving NYU's operations and infrastructure, safeguarding the health and well being of its community members, and conserving energy and the natural environment that supports and underpins them both. Sustainability is about more than mitigating ecological impacts. Along with academic excellence and public service, it can be a foundational principle for our university - another lens through which we see our values and mission.
Nearly a year ago, at a University Senate meeting, NYU unveiled a broad sustainability agenda, and we can be proud of the progress we have made since then. Specifically, NYU has:
- Made the largest purchase of wind energy by any US university, and pledged to continue to make clean, renewable sources a part of its energy mix.
- Launched a $120 million renovation of the cogeneration power plant on our campus, which will quadruple the number of buildings served by this clean, high-efficiency energy source.
- Pledged to reduce the carbon footprint of NYU by 30% over ten years, as a partner in Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 Challenge
- Formed a campus-wide Sustainability Task Force composed of faculty, students, and administrators, charged with creating and caretaking a university Green Action Plan.
- Committed $250,000 annually for at least four years to a Sustainability Fund through which the NYU community can submit campus greening, research, and demonstration projects. The fund is currently supporting 15 initial projects.
- Initiated a new, multidisciplinary undergraduate Environmental Studies Program directed by Professor Dale Jamieson.
- Created three new full-time positions: Assistant Vice President of Energy, Engineering and Technical Services, John Bradley; Director of Energy and Sustainability, Cecil Scheib; and an Administrator for the Sustainability Task Force, Jeremy Friedman.
The Sustainability Task Force recently released its Year End Report, which includes 30 recommendations covering topics from energy efficiency and recycling to purchasing and transportation. Considering the short time since the Task Force began, it is an amazing document. Since that time, some of the recommendations have already been implemented, while others will require additional consideration. Let me express here my deep appreciation for the hard work of the Task Force members - volunteers all! I especially want to thank Senior Vice President Lynne Brown and Vice President Alison Leary for their hard work in leading the Task Force and engaging our community. I encourage you to read their excellent report and to learn more about the program on the NYU sustainability website.
Now, I am pleased to announce the launch of five new policies and initiatives that incorporate many of the Task Force's recommendations. Taken together they constitute another major step forward on the path of sustainability.
A New "Sustainability Advocate Program"
This initiative aims at tapping into the energy and enthusiasm of employees to "green" their own departments and work spaces, while increasing awareness throughout the university. Advocates will receive training, resources, and guidance from sustainability staff, and will be able to work together collaboratively to address workplace sustainability issues. Advocates are volunteers who will spend a few hours per month of paid work time encouraging colleagues to make environmentally preferable choices, and who will lead departmental efforts to conserve energy, purchase green office products, and improve recycling.
For more information on this program, or if you are interested in becoming an NYU Sustainability Advocate, please visit http://www.nyu.edu/sustainability/advocates.
Energy Reduction Strategy and Projects
The university has undertaken cost-effective relamping and the retrofitting of heating and cooling systems to continue NYU's efforts to operate our campus more efficiently. Colleagues should strive to avoid waste by turning off unused lights and computers, and using heat and cooling systems prudently. Reducing campus-wide electricity consumption is in accordance with sustainability concerns, economic realities, and our participation in the PlaNYC Climate Challenge.
For more information, please visit http://www.nyu.edu/sustainability/energy
Comprehensive Environmental Assessment
Measuring our ecological footprint is essential to prioritizing future sustainability projects and being able to evaluate our progress. While student and Sustainability Task Force efforts to assess our environmental impacts have yielded valuable insights, we cannot act effectively without an in-house, institutionally sponsored sustainability assessment. Accordingly, I ask that all university divisions assist sustainability staff and the Task Force's Data Committee as they work to assemble information ranging from energy use in campus buildings, to student recycling habits, to the efficiency of the campus fleet.
One key outcome of the assessment will be the ability to target cost savings through a better understanding of energy and water consumption in university facilities, beginning with our major buildings. This assessment will be carried out over the course of the fall, and analysis of the data shared with the university community in the future. Recurring assessments will help us evaluate trends and track our progress toward sustainability goals. For more information, please visit http://www.nyu.edu/sustainability/assessment.
New "Student Outreach Initiative"
NYU students have spearheaded the campus sustainability effort. Indeed, it was our students who inspired NYU to take significant action in sustainability. This outreach initiative will expand upon their initial successes by recruiting more students to the cause. Residential Education is instituting green event programming and a green-themed residence hall floor. One particularly exciting project will be the Residential Energy Challenge, a dorm energy conservation competition that will give students a direct stake in - and impact on - campus sustainability.
Green Purchasing Standards and Guidelines
We will expand NYU's existing purchasing guidelines to emphasize sustainability in breadth and detail. Standardizing these guidelines will enable NYU to negotiate a lower cost for goods and services, and widely encourage best practices for the benefit of university operations.
In addition, I call on all University divisions under my direction to participate in the implementation of a series of new initiatives. In particular, I am directing the offices within University administration, starting academic year 2007-08, to:
- purchase recycled paper with a minimum of 30% post-consumer content; purchase Energy Star labeled electronics, appliances, and office equipment; utilize recycled furniture from Asset Management, or purchase green certified office furniture when available; and print and copy double-sided whenever possible.
- reduce electricity consumption by always turning off unused computers and lights, and using heating and cooling systems prudently.
- assist and cooperate with the new Sustainability Advocates as they share information in order to achieve the above goals and reduce the environmental impacts of our operations.
- construct new and renovate existing NYU buildings using appropriate principles as promulgated by the US Green Building Council.
The Office of the EVP will work with the Sustainability Task Force and the University Senate to develop a similar set of policies and a possible sustainability mission statement for the University, which would guide the individual schools and administrative units of the University in achieving sustainable practices.
In addition to these new initiatives, we will renew last year's successes, including another large purchase of certified renewable energy credits, the continuation of the work of the Task Force, and the launching of a new round of Sustainability Fund projects.
We have accomplished a great deal in a short time, but much work remains. Sustainability challenges conventional ideas about the energy and resources we use, the way we live our lives, and the choices we make. It also offers an extraordinary set of opportunities: creating a healthier, more vibrant campus; helping to recruit talented faculty and students; fostering connections between the academic and administrative areas of the university; and improving operational efficiency to achieve cost savings.
In closing, I once again would like to thank Lynne Brown, Alison Leary, John Bradley, Cecil Scheib, Regina Syquia and Jeremy Friedman for their excellent work, all members of the Sustainability Task Force for their enthusiasm and expertise, and the many, many people at NYU who have provided their support, ideas, and cooperation. We can make NYU a global leader in urban environmental scholarship and practice. I look forward to working with all of you in the year ahead on what is one of the high priorities of this University and one of the core imperatives of this generation.