The Carbon Reduction Challenge (GLY479/579), co-taught each spring by Dr. Elizabeth K. Thomas, assistant professor in Geology and Ryan McPherson, UB Chief Sustainability Officer, is an interdisciplinary seminar-style science course that relies on subject matter experts from across the UB campus and beyond, encouraging lively discussion of both current events and past developments relevant to our energy and climate future. The main student activity is the semester-long "Carbon Reduction Challenge” project, which is carried out by teams of 2 to 3 students in collaboration with local businesses and organizations. The project involves designing, pitching, and implementing creative strategies to avoid carbon emissions and, where possible, identify benefits to all three legs of the triple bottom line: People-Planet-Profit.
The Spring 2021 cohort of students assessed the greenhouse gas impact of five organizations: the City of Buffalo, GreenSheen, Linde, National Grid and the University at Buffalo.
Watch their reports below.
Students: Consider taking this class, GLY479/579, offered every spring semester. Undergraduate and graduate students from all majors welcome. Sign up today at the link below.
Climate destabilization poses both real and existential threats. Yet science shows that carbon emissions reductions will reduce these threats. There is also economic, social, and ecological value in emissions reductions. New York State has passed one of the strongest regulatory frameworks in the country, mandating that businesses and individuals decarbonize.
UB’s “Carbon Reduction Challenge” course focuses on a project in which teams of 2 to 3 students support a business or organization (“the client”) in their effort to decarbonize.
Students will perform the following tasks for the client:
In collaboration with the client, determine the perimeters for the Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions that the student team will measure,
Gather data to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from the client’s Scope 1 and 2 activities, and one aspect of Scope 3 activities,
Write a report that quantifies CO2 emissions and cost of each activity, including evidence from the primary literature and applicable assumptions (not all aspects of emissions will be able to be quantified, e.g., embodied energy in food and goods),
Develop a draft climate action plan that includes goals and strategies for emissions reductions, cost savings, and social benefits,
Provide a separate technical guide detailing the steps that the client can follow to conduct carbon emissions analyses on an annual basis.
We request that business partners provide:
Contact information for an individual who will be the point of contact for the team (time commitment will be ~30 minutes per week from February to May),
Guidance on the perimeters for the emissions that the team will quantify,
Data for the carbon emissions calculations, including, for example, electric, gas, and water usage, fleet data, building dimensions, etc.**,
Authentic feedback on the student team’s report, climate action plan, and technical guide, with the goal of developing documents that will be useful for your business in the future.
We request that business partners help meet the following deadlines:
Early Feb: Meet with student team to determine perimeters for the emissions calculations and to provide students with data for their emissions calculations,**
Late Feb: Meet with student team, discuss & provide feedback on draft calculations and discuss any further data needs,
Late March: Provide written feedback to team on draft carbon emissions report, climate action plan, and technical carbon footprint analysis guide,
Late April/Early May: Join us for public presentations about student projects!
**Students will present the results of their project in public forums, and final posters will be posted online. We will work with clients to ensure that we do not publicly share confidential information.
This interdisciplinary seminar-style science course relies on subject matter experts from across the UB campus and beyond, encouraging lively discussion of both current events and past developments relevant to our nation's energy and climate future. The main student activity will be a semester-long "Carbon Reduction Challenge", in which student teams apply their scientific knowledge to reduce carbon footprints of partner businesses by the end of the semester. Students will also learn how to communicate the science effectively with stakeholders.
The primary goals of the course are:
Students worked with the Williamsville Central School District, Curbell, Erie County, Rich’s Products, NY Department of Transportation, and Harmac Medical Supply in the 2020 Spring Semester.