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by Tracy Will
Mon, Feb 23rd 2009 11:10 am

A commitment to climate neutrality was taken on as one of the UB2020 strategic plan initiatives in the spring of 2007.  It was at this time that University at Buffalo President John Simpson signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), and set into motion the process of creating a climate action plan that will serve as the framework for making all three campuses carbon neutral in conjunction with the comprehensive physical plan for UB.

The philosophy behind the ACUPCC is that institutions of higher education should be leaders in their communities by modeling sustainable practices and provide the knowledge and graduates with the education needed to make the changes necessary for a sustainable future. 

The Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC) was formed in November of 2007 to fulfill the requirements of the ACUPCC including the creation, implementation and monitoring of the climate action plan.  The committee is chaired by Building UB: The Comprehensive Physical Plan director Robert Shibley, Professor of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning and Senior Advisor to the President for Campus Planning and Design at UB, and includes chief staff members from UB departments that would be involved in plan implementation along with representatives from the undergraduate and graduate student associations.  Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, LLP of New York City, the lead consultants for the comprehensive physical plan, will also assist the ESC in preparing the climate action plan.

The ESC has six subcommittees that focus on specific opportunities for emissions reduction based on the UB Green Climate Action Report: energy; transportation; materials; information technology; research, teaching and public service; and outreach and communications.  In addition to ESC members, the subcommittees are joined by faculty, staff and students that have expertise and/or interest in each area.  These six focus groups will help to ensure that the climate action plan is comprehensive and utilizes as many strategies as possible to provide for a sustainable future.

Energy and transportation issues with regard to climate change are well publicized, and rightfully so, and therefore are common knowledge.  The other subcommittees provide focus on other strategies, some unique to a university, that can also have a powerful impact well into the future.  The materials group is taking a long, hard look at the "reduce, reuse and recycle" concept, which includes purchasing supplies with high recycled content and Energy Star rated equipment, and improving UB's recycling program, all of which saves energy.  According to the Energy Information Administration, making recycled paper uses 40 percent less energy, and since UB purchases 100 percent recycled content paper, they're saving more than 6,000 BTU for every pound of paper they purchase, that's not bad. 

The information technologies group is looking for ways that technology can reduce the need for travel and how they can optimize the energy efficiency of computing technologies on campus.  The research, teaching and public service group is exploring how sustainability can be integrated into the fundamental purpose of the university to further the cause.  Finally, the outreach and communications subcommittee is trying to find ways to effectively engage university users and the surrounding community in UB's sustainability efforts to optimize the success of the climate action plan once it is implemented.

UB welcomes and encourages public participation throughout the planning process.  Dates and locations for monthly ESC meetings are posted on the website and are open to the public.  They have also organized three public forums to gain valuable input and gage the success of their efforts, the first of which was held in October.  There will also be a winter forum, which has been rescheduled for early April, and a final review of the climate action plan before its final due date in September of this year.  Dates and locations for these events will also be posted on the website when they are confirmed.

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