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Change agents work to create culture of sustainability at UB

the Education and Leadership Fellows in Sustainability gather in the new sustainability nook in the Student Union. Photo: Douglas Levere

By DAVID J. HILL

Published April 22, 2016

“We wanted to create a sustainability culture on campus by educating students, faculty and staff about ways in which we can all lower our energy consumption.”
Madeleine Dewey , Education and Leadership Fellow in Sustainability

They’re called “change agents” and they’re certainly living up to their name this semester.

Twenty-seven students participating in the Education and Leadership Fellows in Sustainability (ELFS) program spent the spring semester learning leadership skills and spearheading projects on campus designed to create a long-term culture of sustainability at UB.

“This group of outstanding leaders represents a rich and diverse cross-section of our students at UB, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, business majors to chemical engineers, and everything in between,” Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer, said at Thursday’s Student Leadership and Sustainability Social in the Student Union Landmark Room.

The Earth Week event recognized the inaugural class of change agents and also gave them the opportunity to hear from and interact with area sustainability professionals.

The ELFS program is part of the new Change Agents Scholar Initiative funded by university supporters and donors through President Satish K. Tripathi’s President’s Circle Fund.

Each semester, the program will give students hands-on leadership experience and the opportunity to learn from and network with local and national leaders.

“This group embodies what it means to be a change agent and it’s exciting to see the next generation of globally minded, sustainably literate leaders taking shape right here,” McPherson said.

At Thursday’s event, the change agents provided an update on the work they’ve done this spring. Junior Brian Stuhlmiller and senior Katrina Cropo talked about UB ReUSE, a program that aims to reduce the amount of stuff that gets tossed out during move-out week in May.

President Satish K. Tripathi talks to students at the opening of the sustainability nook in the Student Union. Photo: Douglas Levere

From May 8-15, collection bins will be set up at various housing complexes across campus for students to dispose of items they don’t want, such as clothing, electronics and furniture. The items will be tested and refurbished, then stored over the summer to be sold at a campus yard sale scheduled for the fall. The money raised from the yard sale will go toward a fund for future student-led sustainability projects.

“We want to make students aware that they can do these little things that add up over time, and we want to develop that culture on campus so it becomes normal to reuse things,” Cropo said.

Green It Forward, another ELFS program, wrapped up earlier this month with a goal of encouraging a reduction of energy consumption on campus.

“We wanted to create a sustainability culture on campus by educating students, faculty and staff about ways in which we can all lower our energy consumption,” sophomore Madeleine Dewey said. “We also wanted to get a glance at how UB uses its energy. Our university uses a ton of energy and we wanted look at where that energy was being used and ways we could make changes.”

The “Lights Out Brigade” found a fun way to make some easy changes. Members got together between 10 and 11 over five consecutive nights this month and turned off lights that were left on in various areas of campus.

SLICE Award winners announced

The 2016 Sustainability through Leadership, Innovation and Collaboration (SLICE) Award winners were announced April 18 as part of the annual Sustainability Summit Luncheon. The SLICE Awards honor members of the campus community who work to make every day Earth Day.

“Through their personal leadership, they have helped the university to infuse sustainability into its goals and aspirations for a better future for our community,” McPherson said.

The 2016 SLICE Award recipients are:

Faculty: Martha Bohm, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Planning who spent the past three years as the lead faculty adviser on UB’s award-winning GRoW Home. The project won second place overall in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in October.

Student: Connor Brown, president of the UB student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World. “The rising awareness of sustainability on campus among engineering students over the last several years is due in large part to his leadership. His drive to succeed and make a lasting positive impact is not only impressive, but contagious,” said Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services, who announced the student award winner.

Staff: William Bagley, supervisor of grounds-facilities campus operations, who was honored for his efforts to continuously improve UB’s recycling program and minimize waste across campus.

Office/Department: Maria Wallace, director of parking and transportation services, and the entire UB Parking and Transportation Services team for their efforts in reducing UB’s carbon footprint through several sustainable initiatives, including Social Bikes, Zipcar and shuttle and bus service.

Sustainability nook almost ready

The finishing touches are being put on a sustainability nook on the second floor of the Student Union. The space includes an interactive touch screen that will allow visitors to, among other things, access the UB Sustainability Dashboard, which shows energy consumption across campus. It also will feature profiles of the current change agents. Content will change regularly.

“It’s designed to be a collaborative space that will showcase the work our change agents are doing and serve as a place where students can learn more about sustainability and how they can be engaged in efforts around campus,” McPherson said, adding that furniture will be placed in the nook next week.