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UB Kicks Off "Greener Shade of Blue" Semester

Release Date: February 1, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- From compact fluorescent lights in residence halls to major wind energy purchases, from students addressing neighborhood environmental concerns to Arctic research on climate change, from 'green computing' to energy conservation savings totaling more than $100 million, the University at Buffalo has a proud record of environmental stewardship.

Among American colleges and universities, UB is recognized as a leader in reducing energy costs through extensive and innovative conservation measures and in promoting alternative energy sources, steps that are helping to reduce the university's contributions to climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year named UB one of its Top 10 College and University Green Power Partners in recognition of the fact that it is the largest purchaser of wind energy generated in New York State.

This semester, the university will celebrate that decades-long commitment while exploring the climate change crisis and other critical environmental issues through a series of speakers and activities under the theme "A Greener Shade of Blue."

"Blue and white may be UB's official colors, but for at least three decades, thinking green has been just as important to our campus identity," says UB President John B. Simpson.

"UB has long recognized the critical importance of environmental stewardship, and we have committed ourselves to playing a leadership role in developing environmentally sustainable solutions and renewable sources of energy for the future.

"After all, this is what public research universities do best. Through our research, education, and service, we are constantly seeking new ways to address the key social issues, problems, and challenges that impact our communities, from the local to the global."

In conjunction with this semester's activities, the university has launched a Web site at http://www.buffalo.edu/greener_ub/ designed to keep the UB and Western New York communities abreast of green events and to highlight UB's environmental leadership, faculty research addressing long-term global sustainability and educational opportunities offered to its students and the community.

A highlight of the activities will be visits to UB by three of the world's most influential environmentalists as part of UB's Distinguished Speakers Series.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai will speak at 8 p.m. Friday in the Mainstage theater in the Center for the Arts as part of UB's 31st Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration. Named by Time magazine as "one of the 100 most influential people in the world," Maathai is a champion of environmental conservation, democracy and human rights. She founded the Green Belt Movement and, with the United Nations, helped launched the Billion Tree Campaign. Among the audience at Maathai's sold-out address will be representatives of more than 400 local community groups, organizations and churches who were provided with complimentary tickets.

The Distinguished Speakers Series will continue with Jean-Michel Cousteau -- ocean explorer and son of the late Jacques Cousteau – at 8 p.m. March 1 in the Center for the Arts.

It will conclude with an address about climate change by former vice president and environmental activist Al Gore at 8 p.m. April 27 in Alumni Arena. Gore's pioneering efforts to protect the planet's ozone layer and to clean up toxic-waste dumps were outlined in his best-selling book, "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit." His recent work is the subject of the Academy-Award nominated documentary film and accompanying book, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Additionally, Denis Hayes, who coordinated the first Earth Day in 1970, will speak at UB at 7:30 p.m. on April 10 in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall in a program sponsored by UB Green, the university's environmental stewardship office. Hayes, often referred to as "Mr. Earth Day," directs the Bullitt Foundation, which protects the natural environment of the Pacific Northwest. His talk will be entitled "Here Comes the Sun: The Solar Solution to Climate Change."

"The university is extremely pleased that at a time when this country and the entire world are being confronted by environmental challenges and the need to find sustainable solutions, UB can bring to our community environmental leaders of the caliber of Al Gore, Wangari Maathai and Jean-Michel Cousteau and Denis Hayes," said Marsha S. Henderson, UB vice president for external affairs, "Even more importantly, through its energy-conservation efforts, research and the community-service activities of its faculty, staff, students and alumni addressing environmental issues, UB is making a positive impact on the quality of life in Western New York and beyond."

UB's proud record of environmental stewardship is underscored by the fact that since the start of its conservation efforts in the 1970s, it has saved more than $100 million dollars in energy costs through its investment in pioneering energy-saving projects. These have included a major project on the North Campus instituted in the 1990s that has resulted in annual energy savings of more than $3 million and a South Campus project initiated in 2005 that is expected to produce utility-bill savings of at least $1.2 million per year, while reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions on campus. The energy dollars saved are invested back into the university to finance academic and program priorities.

"The role of University Facilities is to minimize the cost of energy to the university and at the same time be good stewards of the environment," says Michael F. Dupre, associate vice president for university facilities. "We are very conscious of how much energy we buy and are very mindful of the whole issue of procuring energy. Six percent of our electricity purchases are now environmentally sustainable."

Those purchases, primarily in wind power, have won UB accolades and awards, including one from Environmental Advocates that named the university its "Environmentalist of the Year" in 2003. UB is exploring other ways to increase reliance on green power, energy sources that do not contribute to global warming and climate change by emitting greenhouse gases.

UB continues to serve as a model for other institutions. Representatives from Carnegie-Mellon and Cornell universities; other campuses within the SUNY system, including Stony Brook and Binghamton; City University of New York; and the Australian National University have sought UB's detailed input and advice on how to best implement energy-conservation programs.

UB's comprehensive recycling program diverts from landfills fully one-third of the university's waste stream. Seventy percent of copier and printer paper used on campus is 100 percent post-consumer recycled. The university boasts natural regeneration areas, as well as pesticide-free lawns. On the roof of Norton Hall is the region's largest solar array. UB also constructed the first certified green building in Western New York when it built the Creekside Village student housing complex. UB's High Performance Building Guidelines are among the most-used green design manuals available.

At a time when climate change is in the news daily with scientists and activists advocating a rapid reorientation away from fossil fuel use, UB Green's Climate Action Initiative is preparing a report on the university's greenhouse gas emissions and steps that can be taken to significantly reduce UB's impact on global warming. The report, developed with input from a faculty advisory committee, will explore the possibility of a "climate neutral campus."

Michael E. Ryan, Ph.D., vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies, notes that UB students interested in environmental education have a wealth of opportunities to choose from, including programs in environmental design in the School of Architecture and Planning, environmental studies in the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Degree Program and environmental engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Ryan, who teaches a freshman seminar on energy and the environment, adds that programs with an environmental focus also are available in geology, geography and chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as in the School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Law School.

Through one of the nation's few chemistry service-learning programs focusing on environmental concerns in urban communities, UB undergraduates have worked with community organizations to investigate serious environmental health questions they have raised about their neighborhoods. They have worked with residents in neighborhoods including Buffalo's Hickory Woods subdivision and Seneca-Babcock neighborhood, and Cheektowaga's Bellevue community.

Students in a geology advanced field methods class have passed up spring break to travel to Mexico to study North America's most active volcano up close and to talk with local residents about their experiences fleeing from eruptions.

UB faculty members have gained recognition for a breadth of environmental work and research that also offer opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.

Legal scholars in the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy work with faculty in the natural and social sciences on environmental stewardship, and community participation in environmental management. Architects and urban planners work with social scientists and computer visualization experts on developing sustainable communities in the U.S. and Latin America. Closer to home, social and natural scientists work with engineers on environmental restoration of the Great Lakes.

Within the UB 2020 strategic strength in Extreme Events: Mitigation and Response, the university's engineers and scientists work together to analyze natural disasters.

How pollution may cause cancer is the focus of environmental epidemiologists and geographers. Chemists and engineers analyze the behavior of pollutants in surface water, groundwater and wastewater. Natural scientists and computational engineers work to develop new tools to model and predict the fate and transport of pollutants and the behavior of natural phenomena, such as volcanoes and changing climate trends

Multidisciplinary collaborations are standard operating procedure among environmental researchers at UB, with organizations like the Environment and Society Institute having helped to catalyze a culture of cross-disciplinary cooperation across departments and schools, resulting in major, multidisciplinary grant proposals to federal agencies.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
Senior Editor, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum