Our History

Fifty years ago, millions of people across the United States took part in more than 12,000 events to mark the first Earth Day.  That moment sparked a movement that led to great change. Here at UB, it signaled the beginning of five decades of advancing environmental stewardship and sustainability. To mark this occasion we have gathered the following key achievements that have occurred over the past five decades.


  • April 22 1970 Ralph Nader celebrates the FIRST Earth Day at UB
  • 1971 Rachel Carson College established to increase environmental education at UB
  • 1972 UB starts recycling newspapers
  • 1976 Environmental Studies Center created
  • 1977 UB Air Quality Program established 
  • 1978 Prof. Adeline Levine & students engage in Love Canal work


  • 1982 UB hires first Energy Officer and establishes “Conserve UB”
  • 1985 Great Lakes Program created
  • 1987 UB receives $2.6 million energy conservation grant


  • 1990 Environmental Task Force (ETF) established by faculty, staff & students committed to reducing UB’s environmental impact
  • 1993 ETF creates policies to reduce UB’s environmental impacts
  • 1993 Buffalo Environmental Law Journal published
  • 1995 National Wildlife Federation recognizes UB’s energy conservation leadership within higher education
  • 1996 UB scientists develop eco-friendly solvent system that can be recycled and reused
  • 1996 Buffalo Green Campus Workshop held at Student Union 
  • 1997 UB Environmental Studies students conduct energy audit of Buffalo City Hall
  • 1998 UB Environment & Society Institute created to promote interdisciplinary research to resolve local environmental problems
  • 1998 UB students write Conservation & Recycling in Residence Halls report and conduct North Campus waste audit
  • 1998 UB receives Association of Energy Engineers “Energy Project of the Year” Award for saving $3 million
  • 1999 UB Green Office and Environmental Library created to support environmental activities & programs, and collaboration with UB Energy Officer          
  • 1999 UB President William Greiner signs international Talloires Declaration, committed to environmental sustainability in teaching, research, service and operations


  • 2000 Student Environmental Network protests use of herbicides on campus & convinces President Greiner to change practices
  • 2002 “Green home” prototypes designed by School of Architecture & Planning students win top prize at Northeast Sustainable Energy Associations’ “Building Energy 2002 Conference”
  • 2003 UB becomes NY’s largest purchaser of wind energy & named “Environmentalist of the Year” for efforts by Environmental Advocates of NY
  • 2004 UB Computing & Information Technology (CIT) energy conservation program uses software to turn off computers after a period of inactivity with an estimated $90K reduction in UB’s energy bill
  • 2004 UB, Erie County & Earth Spirit Education Services, Inc. turned abandoned former 4-H camp into year-round environmental education center
  • 2004 UB publishes "UB High Performance Building Guidelines" as model for sustainable construction
  • 2006 UB unveils its 1st solar electric system generating 73.5 kW to help power Norton Hall
  • 2007 Greener Shade of Blue campaign brings renowned environmentalists to campus for Distinguished Speakers series including Vice President, Al Gore; Jean Michel Cousteau; and Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathi
  • 2007 UB becomes initial signatory of American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment
  • 2009 UB releases Climate Action Plan, and sets 2030 goal for carbon neutrality
  • 2009 UB joins annual, nationwide RecycleMania campaign


  • 2010 WNY Environmental Alliance created with UB anchoring support
  • 2010 UB begins processing of pre-consumer compost on campus
  • 2011 UB appoints 1st Chief Sustainability Officer, elevating university commitment to sustainability & integrating efforts across operations, engagement, teaching and research
  • 2011 UB's Professional Staff Senate organizes Sustainable Living Committee and hosts first Sustainable Living Fair
  • 2012 UB celebrates opening of several LEED buildings and the Solar Strand.  The Strand contains 3,200 photovoltaic panels & generates 750kW of power.
  • 2012 UB Breathe Free Campaign initiated
  • 2012 first Earth Week activities on campus 
  • 2012 UB submits 1st AASHE STARS report to track & measure sustainability performance across university operations
  • 2012 UB hosts SUNY-wide Sustainability Conference 
  • 2013 UB Falcon cam goes to live stream
  • 2013 UB launches bike share program
  • 2013 One Region Forward launched, a collaborative effort to guide sustainable development in Erie & Niagara Counties
  • 2014 RENEW Institute created
  • 2014 Zero Waste initiative begins at UB Stadium
  • 2015 UB School of A&P participates in USDOE Solar Decathlon creating the GRoW Home, coming home with 2nd place
  • 2015 Annual Sustainable Leadership, Innovation and Collaborative Engagement (SLICE) awards established
  • 2015 UB Receives STARS Gold status by AASHE
  • 2016 UB Receives EPA Green Power Leadership Award
  • 2016 First ELFS: Education and Leadership Fellows in Sustainability cohort created. Students deep dive into sustainability with a chance to develop a program to decrease UB’s environmental impacts.
  • 2016 UBReUSE move-out collection program established
  • 2016 UB awarded $1M grant through NYS’ REV Campus Challenge.  Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future initiative planned to generate 100 megawatts of solar power in conjunction with WNY community.
  • 2017 UB commits to inclusive excellence in all aspects of university operations and creates Office of Inclusive Excellence
  • 2017 UB student teams participate in Erie Hack and World’s Challenge Challenge innovation competitions
  • 2018 Lake LaSalle Restoration initiatives begin
  • 2019 UB College of Arts and Sciences creates Dept. of Environment and Sustainability
  • 2019  UB Bees established bringing hives to campus
  • 2019 First Sustainability Camp offered with School of Engineering
  • 2019 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings recognizes UB No. 3 in climate action among 250 institutions worldwide
  • 2019 UB’s virtual food pantry, Blue Table opens


  • UB College of Arts and Sciences receives $3 million Mellon grant in support of indigenous studies 
  • April 22, 2020 UB announces innovative 10 in 10 plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2030

Special thanks to Hang Yu (Class of 2020) for creating this visualized image and to Junyan Chen (Class of 2020) for her assistance in bringing this graphic online.