Release Date: April 22, 2011
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Scarcely a year into its existence, the Environmental Affairs Department of the University at Buffalo Undergraduate Student Association (SA) has been awarded the 2011 Good Going Award for Best Earth Day Outreach for an Organization.
The Good Going Awards -- the result of a collaboration between the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), Ecology and Environment Inc., and other local partners -- recognize local organizations for outstanding sustainability outreach efforts.
The awards are part of the Fourth Annual Buffalo Niagara Earth Day Celebration, which aims to expand awareness of environmental and sustainable transportation efforts in Western New York.
"Buffalo Niagara Earth Day has become more grass roots in the past four years," says Rachel Smith, an environmental specialist with Ecology and Environment Inc. who helps administer the awards. "Where before it was larger organizations doing good things for the Earth, now it's transferred to awardees like the Student Association, which is getting students out and active. What UB's Student Association has done is so interactive," she says. "I hope students will be inspired to continue what they learned outside of Earth Week."
Previous winners of the award include the Hyatt Regency, Rich Products and Community Action Organization.
Smith adds that the efforts of SA's Environmental Affairs Department have inspired other community organizations and campuses to educate students on ways to get involved with sustainability projects.
The Environmental Affairs Department's Earth Week celebration included earth pong, a sustainability scavenger hunt, a speaker series featuring Buffalo environmentalists and a clothing swap co-sponsored with UB Green. The department also enlisted the help of UB Improv, UB's student comedy group, to perform skits about the environment and, with the involvement of Engineers for a Sustainable World, built its annual "Mt. Trashmore" mountain, demonstrating the need to boost recycling on campus.
Jim Simon, associate environmental educator with UB Green, who nominated the UB group for the award, noted that the Environmental Affairs Department has quickly distinguished itself for developing a rich slate of events to celebrate Earth Week, events that would appeal not just to students, but also to faculty, staff and the community.
The department was formed in the spring of 2010 after the UB chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), a national engineering student organization, successfully proposed the idea to the Student Association.
The department was formed partly as a wake-up call to students and to show that UB was serious about going carbon-neutral by 2030 in accordance with former President John B. Simpson's signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.
The department's key focus has been on improving the sustainability of Student Association events by promoting recycling and energy conservation, as well as increasing awareness of sustainability on campus.
"The department works to create a culture of climate awareness; it has drafted a climate action plan and report for the Student Association to measure its emissions and energy use," says Mike Alcazaren, a senior pursuing a dual degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering at UB and current Environmental Affairs Department director. "Within the next five years, we hope to make and implement the changes needed to significantly reduce SA's impact on the environment."
The Environmental Affairs Department also works to provide students with representation by fighting for their environmental rights. They act as student representatives on UB's Environmental Stewardship Committee and recently succeeded in publishing a message in the library to remind students to re-use or recycle computer paper.
Alcazaren and his staff have also reached beyond UB and into the community to work with other environmental organizations, such as Youth Connection, supported by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, to coordinate environmental action in the community and the Buffalo Public Schools.
"I want us to grow and expand," Alcazaren says. "It was our first year in the Student Association and it was nice to get in there, but I want to solidify our presence by greening up the university and making students aware of ways they can reduce their environmental impact."