BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After two years of planning, drafts, public
presentations and feedback, the University at Buffalo today
submitted a plan for achieving climate neutrality to the American
College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).
UB faculty, students and staff contributed to the 100-page UB
Climate Action Plan to fulfill the promise UB President John B.
Simpson made in March 2007 when he signed the Presidents Climate
Commitment. In signing the statement, Simpson pledged that UB would
develop and release an institutional action plan describing how the
university would achieve "climate-neutrality," reducing or
offsetting all of its greenhouse gas emissions.
UB was the first Western New York institution and first SUNY
university center to sign the pledge, and among the nation's first
150 signatories. The ACUPCC now has 650 signatories.
"This plan signals a change in the way we do business, but in
important ways it is also very consistent with our longstanding
commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability," said
Simpson. "This plan is about taking action now because in the long
run, it will be far more expensive -- to our students, our campus
and our community -- to do nothing. Given our long history of
environmental leadership, and our role as a knowledge-producing
institution, it is right for UB to set this important example."
The plan outlines how UB will reach climate neutrality by the
year 2030, but the process of developing that plan over the past
two years has resulted in significant changes already, according to
Robert G. Shibley, professor of architecture and planning and
senior advisor to Simpson on the UB master plan.
"We are already doing things differently," says Shibley, who
also chairs UB's Environmental Stewardship Committee. "It's now
part of the UB culture to construct buildings according to national
standards for environmentally sustainable construction -- buildings
that are rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
gold or silver."
During the past year, new buildings on each of UB's three
campuses -- the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Educational
Opportunity Center and a new North (Amherst) Campus student
residence hall -- have been launched or announced. They are all are
being designed to LEED specifications.
Earlier this year, UB and the New York Power Authority announced
one of UB's most aggressive energy-reduction projects, construction
of a 1.1 megawatt solar energy array that will power UB's student
That project, says Shibley, underscores how UB's climate
planning is inspiring the university to push harder for meaningful
"The Climate Action Plan gives us the logic to target
significant measures, like the solar array, so that we can start
capturing value from them and reinvest in projects that will
produce additional energy savings," he says.
Partnerships between the Environmental Stewardship Committee,
which includes student, faculty and staff membership from all the
university's divisions and from such campus groups as UB Green, the
Environmental Task Force, the Environmental Network and Engineers
for a Sustainable World, also have produced a range of
environmentally focused measures. These include an official
university policy requiring the use of 100 percent recycled
post-consumer paper, improved resources for bicycling at UB, more
aggressive carpooling, and campus dining that features locally
sourced food and trayless dining, which will save an estimated
40,000 pounds of food waste every semester.
Perhaps the biggest change at UB, Shibley notes, is that
environmental responsibility is no longer seen as the niche
responsibility of a small population on campus, such as UB Green
and other staff in University Facilities.
"Every office and department at UB now has a family of green
responsibilities and a capacity to address them," says Shibley. "If
you look at the total level of effort now and compare it with the
level of effort even a year ago, you see far more institutional
engagement on environmental issues now."
For example, UB's Professional Staff Senate next month will
sponsor a Greener Shade of Blue & You Day, focused on personal
environmental stewardship for UB students, faculty and staff. UB's
Student Affairs office also highlighted UB's green mission during
opening weekend at the university when T-shirts sporting "How Will
UB Green" messages were given to 1,000 freshmen. And UB's Office of
Campus Parking and Transportation has launched partnerships with
bus companies to organize student trips home for vacations and
holidays, a move expected to reduce students' car usage on
Chris Llop, a senior electrical engineering major and the
Environmental Stewardship Committee's student representative, fully
supports the plan, and its recommendations for changing UB's
"We need to foster a culture where sustainable actions are
expected and praised," says Llop, "so people feel good about taking
the extra steps to recycle instead of throwing something out. We
need to come together, across departments, across the
student-faculty-staff divide, and we need to start now."
Developed by UB's Environmental Stewardship Committee in
partnership with consultants from Ecology & Environment, the
plan covers the broadest range of environmental impacts from UB,
from the teaching of more courses in sustainability and the funding
of a seed program for environmental research to green computing and
restrictions on freshman car ownership. The plan recommends that a
senior-level sustainability director be hired to coordinate UB's
progress toward climate neutrality.
It also recommends early adoption a broad range of strategies,
including development of an environmental degree program, the
purchase of renewable energy credits and increasing recycling of
campus waste to 50 percent from its current level of 33
UB's greatest energy consumption by far comes from purchased
electricity -- totaling 52 percent. The Climate Action Plan
recommends three scenarios to reduce electrical energy usage, the
most aggressive of which would get UB to zero emissions through a
variety of significant mitigation measures plus the purchase of
offsets equal to the remaining emissions. Shibley says these
efforts will go forward even as UB's campus footprint and
enrollment grow under the UB 2020 plan.
One change that will occur this semester involves the
development of a new UB planning board, which will emerge from the
current Space Management and Facilities Planning Committee that has
guided development of a new comprehensive physical plan for the
With the physical planning process complete and a final public
presentation scheduled for Oct. 27, the new planning board will
shift its focus from planning to implementation, says Shibley, and
the Climate Action Plan will serve as one of the master plan's key
The ultimate effect of the combined efforts of the physical
master plan and the Climate Action Plan will be dramatic and
comprehensive, Shibley says. For example, both plans are focused on
better transit services for UB's three campuses and recommend a
"one-seat ride" from UB's Downtown Campus to the North Campus,
meaning that a commuter would not have to switch modes or vehicles
anywhere along the way.
"That may be a number of years away," notes Shibley, "but once
we achieve it, it will have a huge return on investment not only to
UB but to the entire region."
UB's Environmental Stewardship Committee will continue working
as the body responsible for managing and implementing the Climate
Action Plan, setting immediate priorities for action, holding
responsible parties to account and measuring progress toward
The Climate Action Plan requires the committee to update the
plan annually and conduct a major re-examination every five
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.