The New School Launches New Sustainability Campaign with Water Bottle Initiative
As The New School welcomed students, faculty, and staff back to campus this week for another semester of learning, making, collaborating, and more, there was one noticeable change, courtesy of the color red.
Thanks to RENEW, a new sustainability campaign, the university is giving a reusable water bottle to anyone with a valid New School ID, in an effort to eliminate single-use plastic usage around campus, and increase the waste diversion rate. Available in a vibrant red, the water bottles can be picked up until March 1st at give-away stations in a number of New School buildings. The campaign also includes new water refill stations, which provide increased access to water.
“We wanted to have a sustainability campaign that was both tangible and utilitarian for the New School community,” shares Ashley Kossakowski, Director of Energy Management and Sustainability at The New School. “We have many current sustainability projects that are impactful but are not the most glamorous, like energy audits of our campus buildings, trash signage redesign, and demand response. These initiatives largely happen behind the scenes, but for this initiative, we wanted to bring sustainability to the forefront and get people excited about joining in on everyday acts of sustainability.”
The collaborative effort to provide everyone on campus with a reusable water bottle involved a number of groups, including water bottle company Didomi, a social enterprise founded by African immigrants dedicated to addressing the global water crisis. With the introduction of 12,500 Didomi bottles into our community, an estimated 2,087,000 plastic water bottles will be removed from use, and prevent over 14,000 pounds of plastic from entering our oceans.
“At Didomi, we see colleges and universities as key partners in forging a sustainable future,” explains Michael Negussie, Director of Social Impact at Didomi. “In line with this vision, we believe they have a responsibility to foster an environment that encourages bold and visionary thinking. Initiatives like The New School’s ‘Renew’ campaign are essential in equipping students with the mindset and tools for a world where sustainable practices and environmental responsibility are absolutely integral.”
The university also worked closely with the University Student Senate to bring this initiative to life. Four senators were appointed to work alongside Mark Diaz, Interim Executive Vice President for Business and Operations, where they engaged in brainstorming sessions, and helped define some of the university’s goals. They also helped facilitate student participation, and received input on the initiative’s name, slogan, and more.
“The collaborative spirit demonstrated throughout the planning stages ensures that The Single-Use Plastic Initiative is not just a symbolic gesture but a tangible commitment to creating positive change on our campus,” says Ahana Sharma, Integrated Design ‘24 and Chair of the USS. “It is our hope that this initiative will not only address the issue of single-use plastic but also serve as an inspiration for future collaborative endeavors that enhance the overall college experience for New School students.”
The New School also hosted “The Oasis” this week, a dynamic community event and platform to engage students in vital discussions about the water crisis, environmental justice, and sustainability. Didomi presented Innovate for Impact: Forging a Sustainable Future through Social Entrepreneurship, specially designed for members of the community who are passionate about environmental justice, social entrepreneurship, art and activism, and global perspectives. Didomi co-founders, Lamah Bililty, Anaa Jibicho, Michael Negussie, and Brian Bishop shared insights on the company’s journey, impact, and the challenges of being a social enterprise in today’s world.
New School community members were also able to customize their water bottles with a variety of unique materials. To date, almost 4,000 water bottles have been given away to students, faculty, and staff.
“’The Oasis’ is always a highlight of our partnerships with colleges and universities,” shared Negussie. “It’s a unique platform for engaging, educating, and empowering students to learn about and contribute to addressing key global issues – like the water crisis and sustainability. We aspire for every attendee of ‘The Oasis’ to leave feeling inspired and motivated, equipped with the knowledge and drive to make a positive difference in the world.”
“The water bottle campaign is so important right now globally because of the ongoing water crisis in many parts of the world,” notes Kossakowski. “At The New School, we like to think globally, and act locally to make an impact.”
Teams throughout The New School are hard at work on sustainability projects, which includes the elimination of single-use plastics, such as cutlery and plastic bottles, lighting upgrades, and energy training for building staff. The university is also doing energy audits of all campus buildings, and demand response, which helps prevent blackouts and brownouts in NYC’s grid by curtailing electric loads on peak days, and creates positive environmental justice impacts for marginalized groups.