UB Sustainability Summer Camp fosters promising youth climate activists

group of people holding signs.


Release date: August 24, 2021


“How can we save the climate?” “What about ending fossil fuels?” “But what about lowering emissions?” “How does that affect biodiversity?” These are dire questions the world is facing, but you’d be surprised by who is asking them and feeling the urgency to act. In early August, UB Sustainability and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences teamed up again to lead the second Sustainability Summer Camp for local 8th and 9th graders. Over the course of five days, thirty campers learned about renewable energy, food systems, the importance of biodiversity and bees, explored Lake LaSalle, built wind turbines, and were challenged by a global competition where they had to come up with planet saving ideas called Earthshot. 

The Earthshot competition presented them with five challenge areas: protecting and restoring nature, cleaning our air, reviving our oceans, building a waste free world, and fixing our climate. Each camper got to pick a team and craft a solution based off one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or SDG’s). The teams were led by current UB student counselors from the Environment and Sustainability Department, Engineering Department and UB Sustainability. 

The teams had special guidance from Hadar Borden, Executive Director of Blackstone LaunchPad UB to learn how to ideate and innovate in a mini-design sprint that propelled their Earthshot ideas forward. Each team had creative proposals to lower plastics in the oceans, reforest land, lowering food waste/consumption, plans to combat drastic weather patterns and stressed the importance of advocating for climate justice. 

The campers also heard from Matt Reitmeier from UB Parking and Transportation and Scott Bixby from UB Police about the importance of bike safety and how biking is a healthy way to commute sustainably. They spent time at the campus garden and learned about the components of a healthy, just food system. And to really grasp the rules of recycling, the teams competed in a speed waste sorting game where they had to correctly place discarded items in the correct bins for recycling, compost and trash under UB recycling guidelines (pro-tip: check the number on the plastics! Only 1 and 2s can be recycled!).   

As the week came to a close, the campers got to spend the last day at the new GroW Clean Energy Center and the UB Solar Strand. They heard from Andrea Harder, an Urban Planning Master’s student about Community Solar and a new state program which is “striving to support the clean energy transition and the development of local solar farms, for free, all while reaping the benefits and the savings of renewable energy without having to make any modifications or changes to their own property.” After the presentation, campers harnessed the power of the sun to bake cookies in a solar oven and build solar powered cars. 

By the end of the camp, the students were determined to make climate action a reality. Some campers made call to action posters, designed steps to recycle more efficiently and even gave presentations on how we can save the world by 2030. Their hope provides an optimistic outlook for the planet’s future. 

global goals.

Sustainable Development Goals:

4. Quality Education 

11. Sustainable Cities and Communties 

13. Climate Action