Nichols named sustainability engagement coordinator

Published June 14, 2017

Derek Nichols, who was most recently director of education and outreach for Grassroots Gardens WNY, has been named sustainability engagement coordinator at UB.

Nichols will support UB’s sustainability initiatives through collaboration, leadership and partnering throughout the campus community, said UB Chief Sustainability Officer Ryan A. McPherson.

“Derek will specifically work to connect students, staff and faculty across the university with information, innovation and tools to reduce UB’s footprint on the future and enhance quality of life by improving environmental stewardship, increasing economic efficiency and augmenting cultural values and awareness,” McPherson said.

During his four years as director of education and outreach for Grassroots Gardens WNY, Nichols worked to build and strengthen the Safe Roots for New Americans initiative, which assists refugees who are becoming Buffalo residents in better understanding local safe-growing practices.

“Many of the families and individuals who are arriving in Buffalo from other countries come from areas where agriculture is a big part of their lives,” said Nichols, who holds bachelor’s degrees in cultural anthropology and geography, and a master’s degree in urban planning, all from UB.

“They are bringing their knowledge of foods and the skills to grow them to our community. Through engagement in understanding which foods grow well here, along with urban farming techniques, we build benefits for these new Americans, as well as for Buffalo and the surrounding region.”

Nichols also broadened the impact of Grassroots Gardens’ WNY’s school gardens program — focusing on pollinators and climate change — as well as that of community gardeners.

“There are about 100 community gardens in Western New York,” he said. “Between 75 and 80 percent have a new American component — started or now maintained by an immigrant or refugee family.”

Nichols also serves as vice chair of the WNY Environmental Alliance, where he has leveraged national funding for area environmental organizations to increase youth engagement in such critical issues as combating climate change and addressing food security.