Published March 26, 2018
Sustainability Month at UB is 30 days long — give or take — but 17 is the magic number. That’s the number of goals nearly 200 United Nations member countries adopted in 2015 as part of a new sustainable development agenda.
Those goals are serving as the framework for many of the events and activities planned for this year’s Sustainability Month, which begins March 29 and continues through May 1. It is organized by UB Sustainability in collaboration with numerous schools and departments at UB. The goals have also helped frame many of UB’s sustainability efforts in recent years and will continue to do so moving forward.
“The Sustainable Development Goals are helping the world define what sustainability is,” says UB Chief Sustainability Officer Ryan McPherson. “They touch on gender equality, poverty, health and wellness, the environment. We’ve been looking at the goals as a way to think about our own sustainability initiatives here at UB.”
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also fit snugly into the triple bottom line approach UB has embraced across a variety of its operations, says Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration.
“We strive to evolve, build resilience and minimize our environmental footprint by leveraging a triple bottom line approach that works to steward our natural resources and empower our staff, students, faculty and community, while creating smart, long-term, financially efficient strategies,” Hubbard says. “This purpose through people, planet and penciling approach is the core of our internal strategy to achieve the university’s overarching goals.”
April will be anchored by a series of signature sustainability events. But the one that perhaps best illustrates what it’s all about is the World’s Challenge, which calls on students to solve a pressing global problem. The challenge — which is set up similarly to the Erie Hack competition UB participated in last spring — calls on teams of three students representing diverse backgrounds to craft a solution tied to one of the 17 goals.
UB’s student teams will present their ideas at the campus finals set for 4-6 p.m. April 3 in the Buffalo Room, 10 Capen Hall. Prizes will be awarded for first ($2,000), second ($1,000), third ($500) place and audience choice ($250). The winning team advances to represent the U.S. at the global finals at Western University in London, Ontario, where $30,000 (Canadian) will be up for grabs.
“Our students are socially minded and seek to impact their local and global communities. The World’s Challenge Challenge competition allows our students to consider how they might contribute their talent and expertise to solve the world’s problems through the lens of the SDGs,” says Hadar Borden, program director of Blackstone LaunchPad at UB.
Other Sustainability Month event highlights include:
March 29: “Water, the Environment and a Socially Just World” – 1:30-9 p.m., 403 Hayes Hall.
Hosted by the School of Social Work’s Global Interest Group, this year’s symposium will address water rights, environmental justice, implications for social work and human rights.
The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required, and dinner will be provided. Experts Cathryne Schmitz, Shanondora Billiot and Tam Perry will discuss topics ranging from community building, environmental sustainability and connections between First Nations to environmental change and the Flint water crisis.
April 6: “Finding Purpose: Sustainable Business in the Anthropocene” – noon, 102 Alfiero Center, Jacobs Management Center, North Campus.
Andrew Hoffman, Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, will discuss the relationship between business and sustainability. Business schools now discuss the importance of a sustainability perspective to every aspect of management. Yet many environmental problems continue to become more pressing.
Hoffman will discuss next steps in making business more sustainable, what’s holding us back, and what might accelerate the transition to a truly sustainable economy.
April 8: Eco-Performance Lab featuring Jeremy Pickard, Zelda Soussan – 1-6 p.m., The Boiler Room, 500 Seneca St., Buffalo.
UB Sustainability has partnered with UB’s Techne Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies to bring artists Jeremy Pickard and Zelda Soussan to Buffalo. The Eco-Performance Lab is a creative workshop for a mixed group of artists and non-artists to confront ecological crises through theater. The event begins with a presentation of research and ends in short performances by participants.
Pickard is the founder and co-director of Superhero Clubhouse, a New York City-based organization that unites ecology and theater. Soussan founded the LUIT — Urban Laboratory of Temporaries Interventions — which gathers artists around site-specific practices, territory projects and theatrical performances.
Admission to this event is free.
April 12: UB Distinguished Speakers Series featuring James Balog - 7:30 p.m., Alumni Arena
Balog has become a global spokesman on the subject of climate change and human impact on the environment. In 2007, he founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the most wide-ranging, ground-based, photographic study of glaciers ever conducted; it integrates art and science, giving a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems. Balog and the EIS team were featured in the 2012 documentary “Chasing Ice,” which won an Emmy Award in 2014 and was short-listed for an Oscar.
April 18: Women in STEM Cooperative Summit - 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Student Union.
This year’s summit will feature a keynote interview with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, moderated by Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In honor of Earth Day (April 22), summit organizers have adopted “Sustainable Solutions and Champions of Change: A Gender Perspective” as this year’s theme.
The first panel discussion is dedicated to “Building Sustainable Solutions,” while the second focuses on “Influencing Sustainable Solutions.” The summit concludes with a network reception and information fair.
April 23: Transforming Our Tomorrow: A New Clean Energy Vision (student pitch competition) – 4:3o-6 p.m., Baird Recital Hall.
Individual students and student teams from across New York State were invited to present their ideas to change the unsustainable system of energy production. Ideas were submitted via either a five-minute talk or a PechaKucha-style presentation with images.
Eight individuals or groups will be selected to pitch their innovations at the symposium. First place will receive $3,000, second will take home $1,500 and third place gets $750.
Presenters will be asked to challenge the audience’s pre-conceived notions of a particular topic; present something that the audience has probably never thought about; reveal something the audience has never considered about an existing topic; and inspire the audience to take action.
Geology faculty members Jason Briner, professor, and Kristen Poinar, assistant professor, will help coach student presenters on their talks.
This event is part of UB’s participation in the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Campus Challenge, made possible by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
May 1: Sustainable Business Summit – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Hotel Henry.
The summit will feature speakers from Panasonic and The Nature Conservancy, the presentation of the first Sustainable Business Roundtable awards, networking opportunities and vendor displays.
Tickets are $100 through April 1 and $125 after. UB Engineering Dean Leisl Folks will serve as a moderator for the keynote address with Panasonic.
More information is available on the Sustainable Business Roundtable website.
Other notable events include the Sustainability, Leadership, Innovation and Collaboration Engagement (SLICE) Awards — nominations are due April 6 — and an art show taking place from 6-8 p.m. April 20 in 155 Center for the Arts (the Project Space).