Five years ago, UB pledged to reduce or offset its greenhouse
gas emissions by 2030.
How will the university accomplish that?
Ryan McPherson, the university’s chief sustainability
officer, explained to an audience at the North Campus Newman Center
last night that UB will not only continue to invest in renewable
energy and construct eco-friendly buildings, but it also will rely
on more modest approaches, such as composting, bicycle sharing and
using energy-efficient light bulbs.
“To achieve that,” McPherson said, “we had to
start thinking very differently.”
He was speaking to about 60 people at the latest installment of
The Bridge Lecture Series, a weekly summer gathering hosted by the
Newman Center. Previous speakers included UB head football coach
Jeff Quinn and Alan Rabideau, professor of civil, structural and
McPherson detailed UB’s long history of environmental
leadership, which dates back to the 1970s as the crisis at Love
Canal unfolded. UB researchers played a role investigating the
toxic chemicals buried underneath the Niagara Falls neighborhood,
The university started doing energy audits of its buildings
during the 1980s, a precursor to the energy-efficiency push that
has swept across the United States in recent years due to soaring
energy prices, he said.
In 2007, UB took matters even further by signing the American
College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. It was
one of 150 institutions of higher learning to agree to reduce or
offset their greenhouse gas emissions. More than 500 colleges and
universities have since signed the pact.
UB has embraced green building principles to reach the goal,
McPherson said. For example, the William R. Greiner Residence Hall
recently was certified gold under the U.S. Green Building
Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) rating system. It one of six buildings recently built or
planned at the university to earn LEED certification.
McPherson noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in
April ranked UB as the 14th-largest green power user among the
nation’s colleges and universities. The ranking could improve
because UB flipped the switch on its Solar Strand, a 750-kilowatt
solar installation, shortly after the EPA released its
The strand’s $7 million price tag, funded by the New York
Power Authority, drew a few comments from audience members
concerned about the economics of the project. Despite a projected
savings of at least $60,000 per year in electricity costs, the
strand will take decades to pay for itself, McPherson said.
Nonetheless, it’s a demonstration project that will spur
solar-technology development statewide, potentially reducing the
costs of similar projects and serving as an outdoor classroom for
UB students and the public, he said.
“The strand has really been a fantastic project,” he
said. “We believe this will be the most publicly accessible
renewable energy park not just in the country, but the
The university also is recycling materials, such as brick pavers
and student mattresses, and reupholstering aging furniture. The
idea, McPherson said, is not only to save money and energy
resources, but to educate and inspire people both on and off campus
to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
For more information about sustainability research and
initiatives at UB, visit the UB Green website