Campus News

STARS report helps UB get a handle on sustainability efforts

A rainbow over Hayes Hall.

"Green" renovations to Hayes Hall in 2016 helped UB score well in the operations category of the STARS report.

Editor’s note

In 2019, the SUNY Board of Trustees revoked the naming of John and Editha Kapoor Hall as well as John Kapoor's honorary degree. More information is available in the university’s News Center.

By DAVID J. HILL

Published February 20, 2019

“To me, it’s everything counts. Do what you can.”
Pete Logiudice, community relations assistant
Wellness and Work Life Balance

For Pete Logiudice, sustainability at UB means a lot of things. It’s the 70 percent natural light that filters into Kapoor Hall on South Campus. It’s the group of employees who meet once a week to go for a lunchtime walk. It’s the GRoW Home, which produces more energy than it consumes. These are all facts that Logiudice, who works in human resources, loves to share when he leads new employee orientation sessions.

They’re also among the many sustainability pride points noted in a report UB Sustainability recently filed. At more than 260 pages, the report doubles as an in-depth look at sustainability at the university and a roadmap for the next several years by equipping every unit on campus with data that shows how UB can continue to move the needle.

“Simply put, sustainability at UB is focused on building a better world for future generations,” says President Satish K. Tripathi. “We are committed to creating sustainably literate leaders through our teaching, research and engagement.”

The report was filed as part of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. More than 900 colleges and universities around the world file the report, typically every three years. Each university’s full submission is available on the STARS website.

Participating institutions compile points across five broad categories — Academics, Engagement, Operations, Planning and Administration, and Innovation and Leadership — to earn one of the following designations: platinum, gold, silver, bronze, reporter. UB has again received gold designation, earning a total of 69.58 points, an improvement over its 2015 STARS submission. The university received a silver designation in 2012. Only five institutions have achieved platinum: Colorado State University; Stanford; Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada; University of California, Irvine; and the University of New Hampshire.

Compiling the STARS report is a comprehensive and integrated endeavor that requires cross-campus collaboration by working with and obtaining information from nearly 100 individuals and departments throughout the university.

UB’s score maintains its status as a leader in the SUNY system when it comes to sustainability, along with the University at Albany and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. UB peer-reviewed its latest STARS submission with Albany.

“All of our efforts are built on a foundation that supports greater efficiency and cost savings in areas such as, but not limited to, procurement, financial reporting, budgeting and overall financial decision-making,” Tripathi says. “This integrated approach leads not only to economic efficiency, but also to better levels of service to students, faculty and staff as we decrease our carbon emissions and adverse environmental footprint.”

While garnering gold again is nice, the bigger benefit lies in the wealth of data contained within the STARS report. “This report provides the university with a foundation for how to think more strategically about how we move forward,” says Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration. “Sustainability touches every corner of UB, and we need everyone to do their part to help us continue to improve.”

The STARS report identifies areas in which UB excels, and where there’s room for improvement. UB fares well in its sustainability-oriented research. For example, nearly one-quarter of the university’s faculty are engaged in sustainability research. It also earns high marks in public engagement, thanks to strong community partnerships — including the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable, the One Region Forward initiative and the Western New York Environmental Alliance — as well as collaboration across campuses.

On the operations side, UB accumulated nearly all of the available points in the subcategory on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for new or renovated buildings certified under a green building rating system.

The STARS report also measures diversity and affordability, two areas in which UB was especially strong, earning 8.4 out of a possible 10 points. This point was recently highlighted in SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson’s State of the University System address, during which she said: “And the University at Buffalo alone — one single SUNY campus — serves as many students from low-to-moderate income families as the entire Ivy League — all eight schools — combined.”

Of course, there’s room to grow, and it ranges from the simple to the complex. Easy fixes include encouraging more units on campus to purchase recycled office paper, as only 35 percent of UB’s expenditures on office paper are 90 to 100 percent post-consumer recycled and/or agricultural residue content and/or FSC Recycled label. (View the university’s paper products purchasing policy.)

A more long-term fix would be electrifying the university’s fleet of buses and shuttles to make them more efficient and cut down on carbon emissions.

Food and dining is one area in which UB fares very well in some subcategories but not so great in others. UB scores highly in sustainable dining by offering low environmental impact dining events, hosting local harvest dinners, the availability of “made in/grown in” New York vending machines on campus, and outreach through the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab in the School of Architecture and Planning. The university, however, receives poor marks in food and beverage purchasing, especially locally sourced products.

Whether positive or negative, the information contained within the STARS report provides UB with a platform to update and enhance the university’s sustainability strategic plan. Toward that end, UB Sustainability will be working across UB’s campuses to see how it can assist in achieving existing decanal, unit and office goals.

For Logiudice, it all comes back to everybody on campus doing their part. “I’ve always been very conscious of my efforts, but coming here and seeing what a good steward the university is for the community in whole, it’s just so exciting for me to be a part of that,” he says.

“To me, it’s everything counts. Do what you can.”

His story is one of thousands across UB. Over the next two months, in the run-up to sustainability month, UB Sustainability will be releasing 11 additional stories. Visit the UB Sustainability website to see the first two.

READER COMMENT

I am reminded once again of what a fantastic, driven and great group of colleagues and students we work with who are striving to make our university and planet more resilient and sustainable. Thank you @UBuffalo community for getting us to the next level.

Ryan McPherson