Our NYU: April 2019
A Note from President Hamilton
Though we’re still seeing some brisk days here in New York, I know for certain that spring is finally here because the red-tailed hawks have returned to their perch right outside my office window (as you can see on the NYU Hawk Cam!). In between meetings, I can’t resist watching the hawks as they take turns sitting on their nest, and by May hopefully we’ll be welcoming some baby hawks.
Another sign of spring is Earth Month, which we can all unite in celebrating, whether you’re on the Square, in Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, or the global sites. At a time when reports of climate change’s impact might otherwise summon despair, our community’s commitment endures, and I am inspired by the ingenuity and enthusiasm with which our students, faculty, staff, and alumni approach the challenges of making the world a greener place—be it through scholarship, activism, the arts, or entrepreneurship.
At Tandon, for example, a team is coming up with a way to make nylon with solar energy, instead of current fossil fuel–based processes. Over at Gallatin, a faculty member fashioned a sanctuary for the imperiled monarch butterfly to coexist in a building near Manhattan’s Little Italy. A research center at Stern recently reinforced that embracing sustainability leads to better business results. And our alumni are also hard at work, including one whose nonprofit brings clean water to millions of people all over the globe.
Here on campus, too, our sustainability vision reaches every corner of the NYU experience, from the more than 900 sustainability-related courses we offer to the 2 million square feet of space that are certified or undergoing certification for LEED. Since 2007, we’ve cut our carbon emissions by 30 percent, and by 2025 we hope to further reduce emissions by 50 percent. Our long-range goal includes reaching carbon neutrality by the year 2040. Some objectives will be met more quickly, however: we will halt spending on plastic bottles by 2020, and a multipronged strategy will significantly reduce the historical energy footprint of 370 Jay Street in Brooklyn once its renovation is complete.
To be sure, we have work to do if we’re going to meet our ambitious goal, and it will take dedication and commitment. But with climate change and environmental concerns on the rise, it’s a clear choice: every light turned out when not in use, every window draught insulated, every plastic straw and bottle eschewed—our collective efforts help us build a better world for ourselves and those who come after us. We can make every day Earth Day.
With all three of our degree-granting campuses located in coastal areas, marine pollution is a particularly resonant theme at NYU. In February, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Office of Community Outreach brought together more than 200 volunteers, eco-organizations, and groups from schools and universities for the Great Nurdle Hunt, an event to collect small plastic pellets used in manufacturing that often end up in the ocean. Together they gathered a staggering 29,000 nurdles.
Our faculty are finding innovative approaches to today’s environmental—and economic—challenges. David Kanter, assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Environmental Studies, and colleagues concluded that applying the auto industry’s fuel-efficiency standards to agriculture could yield billions in economic benefits for the US corn sector while helping reduce nitrogen emissions in fertilizer.
In response to requests we received from faculty who are interested in transitioning to electric cars, we recently installed NYU’s first electric vehicle charging station in the parking garage at Silver Towers. In addition, our Public Safety Department is transitioning to all-electric vehicles and shuttles.
Students in the Green Shanghai club at NYU Shanghai gave new meaning to “reduce, reuse, recycle” with a Trash Fashion Show, in which designers transformed garbage into wearable fashions to raise awareness about recycling and sustainability. Student models walked the runway at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum in looks made from recycled newspaper, surgical gloves, and trash bags.
Deft storytelling was on full display at the New York WILD Film Festival at NYU. NYU cosponsored a student film contest leading up to the event, in which students submitted short films on themes of exploration, adventure, wildlife, conservation, and the environment. The winning entry, Flotsam, by anthropology doctoral candidate Augusta Thomson, featured a haunting portrait of a bay in Brooklyn that has become a de facto landfill.
NYU Grounds has integrated wonderful edible plants on campus as part of a burgeoning foodscaping movement. Ornamental edible plants are incorporated into existing gardens for optional harvesting. This spring, the NYU community can enjoy American cranberry bushes growing on Bleecker Street, serviceberries at Bobst, chard in sidewalk planters, and chives and saffron crocus on the Global Center’s green roof (above).
NYU's Office of Sustainability leads the University-wide effort to build a healthier and more sustainable future, with dozens of initiatives that touch on all aspects of the NYU experience. We are on the path to carbon neutrality and waste reduction, with numerous stops along the way.
I’m so proud of the winners of the Green Grants, which are awarded by the Office of Sustainability for projects that support green practices on campus and beyond. Among the recent recipients was a team from Undergraduate Film & Television at Tisch (above). Project leaders Vanneeda Keowmang (’19) and Heather Vaxer (’20) proposed a carbon-neutral film set that includes measures such as donating leftover food, reusing equipment, minimizing energy usage, and promoting use of public transportation.
It’s gratifying to see so many of us on campus toting around our reusable water bottles. As you’ve no doubt heard, we’ve recently committed to halting spending on plastic bottles by 2020. Recently, the Meyers College of Nursing began distributing reusable water bottles to its staff and faculty to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles and disposable cups. They can be filled with filtered water at filling stations throughout 433 First Avenue.
And I can’t resist circling back to the Hawk Cam, which affords us all a little glimpse of wildlife here on the Square. Watch this space for updates!