Campus News

UB’s CAPtains to give update on climate action work

 Sustainable Development Goals.

By DAVID J. HILL

Published April 16, 2021

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“I’ve been incredibly impressed with our campus, the climate CAPtains and our larger campus community. Despite all the challenges the pandemic has brought us, we have been able to make strong progress and that is worth celebrating this Earth Day. ”
Ryan McPherson, chief sustainability officer

On Earth Day last year, UB rolled out its updated climate action plan, called UB’s 10 in 10. University leaders will gather virtually on April 22 to update the campus community on the plan’s progress over the past year.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the university — propelled by the leadership of the 10 “CAPtains” and the committees they oversee — has made substantial progress.

“UB is recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability nationally and in the Western New York region,” said A. Scott Weber, UB’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, who will kick off the CAP update session.

“During Sustainability Month, we are pleased to highlight the important contributions of UB faculty, staff and students across the university to helping us achieve our goal of achieving climate neutrality within the next decade,” Weber added.

While much work remains, Thursday’s event aims to capture a sense of the momentum, impact and progress around the climate action work that has transpired over the past year. In addition to brief updates by the CAPtains, student sustainability leaders will be providing updates from the field to bring the campus improvements to those in the UB community who have not been on campus this year due to the pandemic. The Zoom session will begin at 11 a.m. Participants can register by visiting UB Sustainability’s climate action website.

“UB’s 10 in 10 is a roadmap of 10 innovative, engaging and digestible steps we are taking to increase climate action throughout the university and put us on a path to net zero emissions by 2030,” says Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration. “These 10 initiatives represent a synthesis of ideas expressed by a diverse array of stakeholders through a robust campus engagement process. They also form a framework for our implementation efforts with each of the 10 categories corresponding to a working group that is advancing action within the area.”

Highlights of the past year include beginning construction on multiple new ground-mounted solar arrays on the North Campus and the anticipated issuance of the request for proposals for off-site solar as part of the UB-led initiative called Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future.

Also of note, work continues on One World Café, the new dining facility that, when it  opens on the North Campus next year, will feature compostable materials instead of single-use plastic; new electric vehicle charging stations on the North and South campuses; and placement of the GRoW Home next to the Solar Strand on the North Campus as part of a new clean energy center for the campus and the public.

In addition, UB will be piloting an innovative battery-technology system that uses zinc and air as fuel as part of a partnership with Zinc8 Energy Solutions and the New York Power Authority. And, as reported earlier this week, the Board of Trustees of the UB Foundation (UBF) Inc. announced that its investment portfolio of U.S. public equities has divested from companies that derive revenues from fossil fuel.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with our campus, the climate CAPtains and our larger campus community. Despite all the challenges the pandemic has brought us, we have been able to make strong progress and that is worth celebrating this Earth Day,” says Ryan McPherson, chief sustainability officer. “We hope the campus community can join us for a bit to learn more about the climate action we have undertaken and the work we have ahead of us.”

As part of Thursday’s event, each of the 10 climate action plan CAPtains will give a brief update on the work of their respective climate focus since the plan was launched last year.

Each of the leaders chairs one of the 10 working groups with a committee of staff, faculty and students who are not only thinking through strategy but also rolling up their sleeves and advancing implementation, McPherson says.

“In addition to the progress they are going to mention, one of the first achievements was actually establishing the committees themselves to form effective and efficient groups to advance the work,” he notes.

The 10 CAPtains and the committees they oversee are:

  • Beth Corry, associate vice president and controller, Business Services, Put a Price on Pollution.
  • Bill McDonnell, associate vice provost for academic planning, Investing Locally to Provide Flexibility.
  • Mark Coldren, associate vice president for human resources, Flip the Switch.
  • Christina Hernandez, interim vice president for student life, Taking Stock of our Food.
  • Chris Austin, director of parking and transportation services, Greening Our Commute.
  • Austin also chairs the Electrifying the Fleet group.
  • Tricia Kandler, director of facilities and building procurement, Waste Not.
  • Tonga Pham, associate vice president for university facilities, Keeping it Cozy and Green.
  • Hadar Borden, director of Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, Making it Happen.
  • Ryan McPherson, chief sustainability officer, Not All Electricity is Created Equal.

With one year of progress already underway, UB’s CAPtains are pleased by the changes they’re helping to make, and what’s to come.

“I am immensely excited to be the CAPtain of the Keeping it Cozy and Green working group. Our main focus will be on South Campus as we integrate UB’s South Campus Revitalization plans with actionable ways to keep all the buildings comfortable for our students, visitors, faculty and staff while eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels,” says Pham.

Adds Corry: "As a public institution, we are stewards of many resources, including natural resources. We anticipate that our carbon pricing model will help guide future decision-making across campus, placing value on those natural resources and positioning UB to become a leader in reducing our carbon footprint in New York State."