On campus, we’re composting food waste and opening new
green buildings. In the classroom and laboratory, we’re
exploring solutions to environmental problems. Out in the world,
we’re educating the public about water shortages, invasive
species and other issues.
The objective is not only to act sustainably, but to conduct
research, teaching and outreach that encourage others to do the
same, says Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability
“Sustainability is about meeting today’s needs
without sacrificing the needs of the next generation, whether in an
environmental, social or economic context,” McPherson says.
“There’s no other institution that’s set up to
play a more pivotal role than the public research university. At
UB, we’re finding solutions to challenges and educating
students to become sustainably literate individuals.”
UB created the chief sustainability officer position last
September to coordinate initiatives across the university and
support the work of UB’s Environmental Stewardship
“We have seen great progress over the last year in
implementing our comprehensive Climate Action Plan. There are
a larger number of people involved at every level of the
university, and we are taking the positive and concrete steps
needed for success,” says Robert G. Shibley, dean of the
School of Architecture and Planning and chair of the Environmental
This Earth Day, we celebrate a year of advancements.
Unveiling The Solar Strand
UB will celebrate the opening of its newest sustainability
initiative on Monday. Funded by the New York Power Authority and
designed by renowned landscape architect Walter Hood, The Solar
Strand comprises 3,200 panels stretching for a quarter mile along
Flint Road on the North Campus.
The installation, a work of landscape art and a gateway to the
university, has a maximum rated capacity of 750
kilowatts—enough to power hundreds of student apartments. But
the strand’s significance also lies in the fact that it
merges sustainability with technology, beauty and public
engagement. In coming years, the array and surrounding landscape
will serve as a classroom and research site for undergraduates and
a field trip destination for K-12 pupils.
Members of the university community are invited to attend the
The Solar Strand opening. To register, click here http://bit.ly/HmPuKP.
Launching a new sustainability portal
On April 16, UB unveiled its new sustainability website http://www.buffalo.edu/sustainability.
It’s a one-stop-shop where members of the UB community and
the public can learn about the university’s latest
sustainability initiatives—and how we all can pitch in to
make UB greener.
Resources for faculty, staff and students include sections on
green solutions for the office, as well as information on getting
to and around campus without a car. The site also provides an
overview of research and courses tied to sustainability, along with
details on how UB is greening operations from dining to facilities
Planning a new academy
New green offerings at UB include a BS in environmental
geosciences and a Discovery Seminar on sustainability led by
engineering faculty member Alan Rabideau. Now, UB is building on
these successes by exploring establishment of an Undergraduate
Academy for students interested in sustainability, says Rabideau,
who chairs the Research, Teaching and Public Service Subcommittee
of UB’s Environmental Stewardship Committee.
The new academy, still in the works, could launch as soon as
fall 2013. Like members of UB’s three existing academies,
students who join the sustainability academy would live together,
take seminars, interact with outstanding faculty, volunteer and
participate in extracurricular activities. The goal is to introduce
sustainability from the perspective of different thinkers in
“The development of a new Sustainability Undergraduate
Academy will expand the unique and exciting living-learning
communities we have established for undergraduate students,”
says A. Scott Weber, vice provost and dean for undergraduate
education. “This effort will further solidify UB’s
strong academic focus on sustainability and will help meet strong
student interest in this important societal need.”
Opening new LEED buildings
UB is in the midst of completing construction or renovation of
six structures designed to earn LEED certification, the standard
for green building. New and revamped facilities include William R.
Greiner Hall, a sophomore residence hall; Barbara and Jack Davis
Hall, the engineering building; UB’s Clinical and
Translational Research Center; Crossroads Culinary Center, the
residential dining facility in the Ellicott Complex; John and
Editha Kapoor Hall, the pharmacy building; and the Educational
Greiner Hall, the first to open, debuted in August 2011 as
SUNY’s first LEED gold-designed student residence hall. The
building is packed with such green features as high-efficiency
lighting, low-flow faucets and laundry-room counters made from
recycled Tide bottles. Openings for UB’s other new
LEED-designed buildings—all part of the campus master
plan—are scheduled for 2012 and 2013.
“I look forward to building on UB’s impressive
commitment to sustainability by continuing to implement strong
green standards for our buildings, while working to reduce our
environmental footprint across the university,” says Laura
Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration.
Studying our world
Students, staff and faculty across UB are working on research
and outreach tied to sustainability. A sampling of projects on just
one topic—water—demonstrates how deeply the university
is immersed in work to improve our collective future.
Esther Buckwalter, environmental engineering student and winner
of the prestigious Morris K. Udall Scholarship, partnered with an
Indonesian nonprofit to develop a laboratory for testing ceramic
water filters for disaster survivors. Derek Taylor, associate
professor of biological sciences, co-authored research showing that
threatened freshwater habitats hold more species of ecologically
important water fleas than previously thought. Closer to home,
Helen Domske, associate director of UB’s Great Lakes Program,
educates the public about invasive species and other threats to
“Water is just one of a multitude of sustainability
subjects that our faculty are studying,” says Alexander
Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development.
“Our research in smart grids and renewable energy is not only
fueling innovative discoveries, but also making a real difference
in creating a better tomorrow through smart sustainable
Trash, be gone! UB’s on-campus dining centers now are
composting 100 percent of pre-consumer food waste and some
post-consumer food waste, thanks to a new food decomposer
that’s turning chicken bones and banana peels into
fertilizer. These efforts, led by Campus Dining and Shops, have
kept hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash out of the
Other new initiatives to curtail trash include making recycling
easier by allowing people to place all recyclables in one bin
instead of separate containers. Single-stream
recycling, as it’s called, debuted on campus in 2011.
Measuring our sustainability
How to keep track of it all? With so many efforts under way, UB is
adopting a sustainability assessment system that helps universities
measure performance in areas ranging from curriculum to operations.
The system is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability
in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment and
Rating System (AASHE STARS).
That’s a mouthful, but the idea is simple: AASHE STARS
helps administrators look beyond individual projects and
evaluate—objectively—how an institution is performing
as a whole.
Nearly 100 UB faculty and staff members are working on this
project, along with students who are gathering data for the
assessment through a class taught by Jim Simon, sustainability
engagement coordinator in UB’s Office of Sustainability. Once
UB has submitted an analysis, we’ll be able to compare
ourselves to similar institutions and identify smart, strategic
ways to improve.