Campus News

‘Green’ tour provides insight on UB's sustainability efforts

Don Erb leading Sustainability tour

Don Erb (right), director of sustainable operations integration for UB Sustainability, leads the tour of Greiner Hall. Cathleen Draper (at left in green dress) takes it all in. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Editor’s note: Rising UB senior Cathleen Draper — a former resident of LEED-gold certified Greiner Hall — learned a few things about UB’s sustainability efforts during a recent tour of the North Campus.

By CATHLEEN DRAPER

Published June 8, 2016

“I soon discovered how every element of the room is sustainable, giving me a new perspective on an old memory. ”
UB student Cathleen Draper

On a warm June day, I joined approximately 30 students, faculty and staff for a two-hour Sustainability Walking Tour of UB’s North Campus.

Hosted by the Professional Staff Senate’s Sustainable Living Committee, the tour began in an air-conditioned classroom in Greiner Hall, UB’s eco-smart residence hall.

A video kicked off the afternoon. Quick facts lit up the screen. I learned UB Stadium has zero waste on game days, and 38 pounds of food per student are composted every year.

The slogan “our community, our responsibility” served as a reminder to tour-goers that we are responsible for the environmental impact we have.

When the video ended, we embarked on a journey through Greiner Hall. Our guides led us to the sixth-floor lounge, where we overlooked a section of Greiner’s rooftop.

At first, the roof seemed like nothing special. However, I discovered its bright white color makes it highly reflective, keeping the building cool on sunny Buffalo days.

Sixth-floor lounge, Greiner Hall

The six-floor lounge in Greiner Hall features walls of windows overlooking the academic spine and Lake LaSalle. The recycled carpet tiles can be replaced individually, rather than in entire wall-to-wall sections. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

The lounge features walls of windows overlooking the academic spine and Lake LaSalle. We admired comfortable couches and carpet tile — both sustainably designed for sometimes messy students.

The couches are made up of individual pieces, and the upholstery is similar to a slipcover. If a unit is damaged, it is reupholstered on site, saving the money and energy that would be used to ship it out for repairs.

The recycled carpet tile is supplied by Interface, an environmentally conscious company. If one tile is damaged, it is removed and sent back to Interface, which recycles the damaged tile and sends back a replacement.

The carpet is environmentally and financially sustainable, since it is cheaper to replace one tile than an entire wall-to-wall section.

Laundry room, Greiner Hall

Tour-goers admire the counter in the laundry room, made from recycled material, including orange Tide detergent bottles. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

We admired the spacious laundry room located off the lounge. Equipped with high-efficiency appliances, the laundry facility boasts a vibrant counter crafted from recycled Tide detergent bottles.

From there, we entered one of the rooms. I lived in Greiner during my sophomore year at UB, and a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I soon discovered how every element of the room is sustainable, giving me a new perspective on an old memory.

Large windows make overhead lights unnecessary until late in the day. Motion-sensor lights in the bathroom and closets save energy for students like me, rushing out the door after a late night spent finishing a paper.

Showerheads and faucets are low-flow and toilets have a dual-flushing system. The countertops are made from recycled quartz.

Each room comes with a recycling bin, and a dedicated garbage-and-recycling room on every floor makes it easy for busy students to recycle.

We swing through the kitchen at the end of the hall, where a tile wall allows students to tape up — and tear down — flyers without damaging paint, saving time and money.

Heating and cooling systems, Greiner Hall

Don Erb shows tour-goers the basement heating and cooling systems in Greiner. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

After exploring Greiner’s heating and cooling systems, we made our way outside. Streetlamps light up the entrances and walkway in front of Greiner at night. The “roof” on the lamps keeps light on site, eliminating bounce back and decreasing light pollution.

Greiner’s bike racks hold up to 90 bikes. Bike lanes and racks are seen throughout campus, and showers in Greiner encourage faculty and staff to cycle to work.

UB BikeShare provides GPS-enabled bikes for members of the UB community to journey across and between the campuses. Bikes are unlocked by a user’s PIN and easily tracked online. Membership, at only $15 a year, is growing quickly, the tour guides said.

Just next door to Greiner is the Campus Garden, tended to by the newly formed Campus Garden Club.

The asparagus plants stood tall and the herb spiral blossomed. Students cultivate raspberry bushes, peas and tomatoes.

The activity in the garden will one day impact students directly through Campus Dining and Shops. The herb spiral now benefits Big Blue, UB’s own food truck and a personal favorite of mine.

A brief walk led to our final stop: the Grace Plaza rain garden, tucked behind Davis Hall. The rain garden, implemented in 2014, is a recent addition to UB’s burgeoning green spaces. It features benches for students and plants native to Western New York.

I noticed sections of the sidewalk that featured a rice-like texture. These sections are pervious concrete, which allows water to pass through, lessening runoff from rain and snow, and keeping the garden hydrated.

Surrounded by lush plants, I knew I’d found the best spot to eat lunch and enjoy the sunshine between classes.

Grace Plaza exemplifies UB’s ability to blend sustainability with functionality, an achievement displayed in every unique aspect of campus we discovered that warm day.