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Sustainability

Updated December 8, 2016

At the University at Buffalo, we work every day to create a more sustainable campus and community through our research, teaching, operations and our interaction with the community. And we've been doing it for over three decades.   

As a public research institution, our model of sustainability focuses on finding solutions to global challenges through research, educating individuals about these challenges in our curriculum and interactions, setting the bar high for sustainability in our own operations, and sharing our experiences and learning from the external community.

The past 12 months have been one success after another for UB’s sustainability efforts. UB launched the innovative State of Sustainability report, earned gold certification from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and ranked first among colleges and universities using green power. In addition, UB won Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Energy to Lead” prize of $1 million to launch a regional solar initiative, and was recognized by the EPA as an Environmental Champion. 

UB is a leader in sustainability in higher education

UB is a leader in sustainability in higher education. Our commitment spans 30 years—from the origins of the environmental movement at Love Canal, to the innovative operational measures we take that continue to save the university millions of dollars each year, while reducing UB’s environmental footprint on the future.

As an early signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, UB is committed to becoming climate neutral by 2030.

To achieve this goal, we brought together leaders from across the university to form the Environmental Stewardship Committee, a group of administrators, faculty and students charged with charting the university's path toward climate neutrality and sustainability.

Our sustainability efforts include: 

  • Launching RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water), an ambitious, university-wide, interdisciplinary research institute that focuses on the most difficult and complex environmental issues, as well as the social and economic issues with which they are intertwined.
  • Creating the artistically infused, publicly accessible Solar Strand.
  • Opening five new LEED designed buildings over the course of a year.
  • Operating a total of nine LEED-certified buildings.
  • Providing critical community leadership in forming the Western New York Environmental Alliance, Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable and other community partnerships.
  • Establishing the UB Sustainability Academy with hundreds of undergraduates participating.
  • Operating a user-friendly sustainability portal that provides the campus community with a one-stop location to learn about and get involved in the university’s sustainability efforts.
  • Creating an innovative student leadership program through the Change Agents Scholars Initiative, which trains diverse student leaders each year through the Education and Leadership Fellows program to become champions for change at UB and in our region and world.

Our focus on developing sustainability literate individuals brings together our faculty and students to learn about local and global challenges. From the northern reaches of the Arctic and the coral reefs of the Caribbean, to the shores of Cattaraugus Creek and Lake Erie, the university is working to create a better tomorrow through sustainability.

Awards and Recognition

Recognized as a national leader among public research universities, UB has received numerous awards for its wide-ranging endeavors to reduce its environmental impact.

  • In spring 2016, UB ranked No. 1 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership list of the largest college and university green power users. UB is using nearly 213 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, which represents 100 percent of its total power needs.
  • In 2016, UB was once again certified “gold” as part of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. The “gold” rating places UB among the top 1.2 percent of colleges and universities in North America. Of the more than 5,000 higher education institutions, only 62 have achieved the level of gold. 
  • The EPA has recognized UB’s commitment to solving pressing environmental issues, educating students about these challenges and operating eco-friendly campuses. The agency presented UB two honors in 2015, including the only Environmental Champion Award given to an institute of higher learning in New York in 2015.  
  • UB was highlighted in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index in the Public Engagement section for its efforts in advancing sustainability in higher education. UB was mentioned specifically for the partnership it created with Erie County and area business leaders to form the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable, a group of nearly 50 businesses that works to advance green practices among businesses in the region. 
  • UB is among the 50 most environmentally responsible colleges in the nation, according to The Princeton Review. The university ranked 33rd in the list of the Top 50 Green Colleges, a new ranking included in The Princeton Review’s 2016  Guide to 361 Green Colleges. 
  • UB received a 2016 Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA. UB was one of only three organizations nationwide to be chosen as a Green Power Partner of the Year. With this award, EPA recognizes Green Power Partners who distinguish themselves through their leadership, overall strategy and impact on the green power market.
  • UB ranked 57th in the Sierra Club’s 2016 list of 200 “Cool Schools.” The rankings are based on sustainability ratings.
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) named UB one of 16 “Leaders” among Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Campus Challenge First Movers. The REV Campus Challenge is part of a strategy to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.