Sustainability Blog

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 15:40

The holiday season is upon us once again. With Thanksgiving now a week behind us, it's becoming appropriate for many families to begin the process of decorating their houses, shopping for gifts and preparing for holiday meals. The atmosphere at this time of the year can become intoxicating, but it is important that we continue to acknowledge our impact on the environment, despite the distraction of our traditions. Global warming is still a concern, regardless of which design coffee shops choose for their cups. With the help of contributors to The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) blog, here are some tips for a sustainable holiday.

First, let’s talk decorations. For many, the concept of decorating becomes relevant after Thanksgiving, and already I have noticed strings of lights, dazzling projectors, and fifteen-foot inflatable abominable snowmen popping up across my neighborhood. Although these displays often look fantastic and contribute to the nostalgic haze of the holiday season, there are things that we can change that won’t diminish the spirit, but will reduce the environmental impact of the buzzing month of December.

The internet is bursting with interesting DIY holiday decorations that can be constructed easily and inexpensively, and these are a fun and entertaining way to bring family and friends together. But if you do choose to purchase decorations, consider both the energy consumption and the longevity of the product. LED lights use less energy, and last much longer than traditional holiday lights. Also, be sure to turn off the display during daylight hours, and after everyone goes to sleep. You can pick up a timer for this purpose while you're at the hardware store scoping out the next inflatable for your collection.

As an interesting side note for those innovative UB engineers out there, I’ve come across a few sustainability projects taken on by other American universities I’d like to share. Appalachian State University in North Carolina used photovoltaics to harness solar energy to illuminate a pine tree on their campus and the Technical College of Lowcountry in South Carolina used tidal power to power the LED lights on their tree. Yeshiva University in New York used a turbine and battery setup to store wind energy in order to light the fluorescent bulbs on the top of their four foot menorah! Perhaps we can develop something at UB to showcase our sustainability efforts alongside our holiday spirit (nudge nudge).

Next, when thinking about purchasing gifts there are a few things you should keep in mind in order to limit your environmental impact. First, when wrapping gifts, try using newspaper or a reusable cloth. According to an AASHE blog post, if every American family decided to wrap three of their presents in re-used material it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! In addition, try skipping material gifts all together. Considerate gifts like event tickets, camping trips and other vacations, gift certificates and music or dance lessons often mean more to friends and family than material doodads that get tossed in the corner. Environmentally and socially conscious gifts such as adopting an endangered animal, buying fair-trade goods or donating to organizations such as Heifer International who provide animals and resources to families in subsistence communities serve to spread the love that the holiday season is all about. Links to sites for such gifts can be found at the bottom of this article.

Switch up the tradition by filling stockings with nuts and fruit instead of plastic junk that often ends up in the trash by the New Year. If you are insistent on a material gift keep an eye out for energy efficient appliances and electronics. If you happen to get a gift that you really won't use or something that you already have, donate it to a charity shop and make a less fortunate person’s holiday season a little brighter.
Finally, if you find yourself in a position where you cannot spend the holiday season with your family, consider sending e-cards instead of paper ones. If you’re sending love to a member of the family who is less tech-savvy, perhaps use cards made of recycled paper, or postcards instead of envelopes to cut back on waste. Another statistic from the aforementioned AASHE blog post may drive this notion home. If you were to stack the 2.65 billion holiday cards sent by American families alone, you could cover an entire football field ten feet high!

As the fall semester winds down and winter vacation approaches we all undoubtedly have a lot on our minds but I hope we can all take these tips into consideration and remain open to adjusting our traditional activities to suit a changing world so that generations to come can continue to partake in the activities of this beautiful season. With that being said, I wish 2016 graduates good luck in their future endeavors and each and every one of you a safe and happy holiday season!

Eric Shaver
Student Sustainability Coordinator UB-CDS
Vice President, UB Campus Garden Club
Cultural Anthropology B.A. (In Progress)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 11:53

The university culture is changing. It wasn’t long ago that the idea of bringing a beverage into a lecture hall was practically unthinkable. Now, students are struggling to make it through a single class without something to drink, and bottles of water and soda can be found on nearly every desk. Apparently, academia has become increasingly dehydrating over the years. Here at UB, we take pride in the fact that we are seriously initiating a sustainability movement and perhaps it is time we fully consider the implications of this change in culture.
Thirty years ago, bottling water hardly existed as a business in the United States. What ever did thirsty students, office workers, and athletes use to meet their hydration needs? All sarcasm aside, it has become clear to me that the increasing consumption of bottled water across the country does not directly reflect the necessity of water that we all share, but rather the desire for a convenience that we have grown accustomed to. This desire translates to the shipment of one billion bottles of water a week in the United States alone. To make matters worse, these bottles are often carelessly tossed out after a single use, contributing to the nearly 750 million pounds of solid waste added to American landfills per-day. Depending on the type of plastic, these bottles may take up to a thousand years to decompose, and during that process they leak harmful substances into the environment.
We must ask ourselves a serious question, is the convenience worth it? When you walk out of a store with a bottle of water you are paying, on average, nearly three thousand times what you would pay for that water through your home tap. It is somewhat embarrassing to come to the realization that many bottled water companies are simply purchasing and bottling municipal water supplies and selling them back to the public with pictures of mountains and crystal clear lakes on the labels, procuring a false sense of the purity and origin of their product. Why not refill your plastic bottle at the fountain? Anyone who has ever attempted the awkward re-positioning required to fill (only about half of) a water bottle from a drinking fountain knows that this does not meet the American convenience standard…
This brings us to one of the ways the UB has attempted to balance this shift in culture, and offers us a platform to begin with when considering what we can do as a community. Across campus you will find resources that are actively leading to a decrease in the university’s solid waste. In order to reduce the amount of plastic bottles purchased on campus many water fountains, including those in Knox, NSC, Silverman Library and the Student Union, have been fitted with refill stations. At these fountains, a sensor activates a tap system that allows you to fill your bottle from above, eliminating the hassle of refilling a bottle from the standard fountain system. Then, whatever plastic bottles do make their way onto campus can be recycled at a number of reverse vending machines, which take your bottles in for recycling and print out a deposit slip that can redeemed at campus dining centers. These reverse vending machines can be found in Greiner, Knox, Capen, Governors, Goodyear, Harriman and the Ellicott Food Court.
In order to combat the commodification of a virtually free resource, and to diminish the environmental consequences of creating plastic bottles, many universities have opted to ban the plastic water bottle entirely. The main issue that has come to my attention is that with water bottles taken off the shelf, there is an increase in the consumption of other bottled, and more sugary beverages, such as sports drinks and sodas. Perhaps a complete ban is not the first step we should take here at UB, but instead we should work on changing the perception of the plastic bottle throughout the UB community. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) has implemented programs that we should take note on if we are hoping to do so.
At UNLV a five cent surcharge has been added to the purchase of single use plastic bottles which is used to fund the installation of hydration stations across campus. Since 2014, over $1,400 has been raised and two hydration stations have been built. In addition, students can turn in ten recyclable bottles in exchange for a reusable bottle to use at the stations. Both of these programs could easily be done here at UB and would have a profound impact on our solid waste. In addition, we need to work together to change the culture, within our university and beyond. If you see a friend toss a plastic bottle into the landfill bin, bring the issue to their attention and get that bottle recycled.
If you would like to see some of these programs develop at UB, or have additional ideas to reduce our plastic waste, or to help bring awareness to what we are currently doing, please e-mail me. Together Campus Dining and Shops, UB Sustainability and the many other environmentally conscious organizations on campus can make a serious impact on the future of our planet. I hope to hear from you soon!

-Eric Shaver
Student Sustainability Coordinator UB-CDS
Vice President UB Campus Garden Club
Cultural Anthropology B.A. (In-Progress)

Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 13:23

If you spent any time on campus this past summer you may have noticed a little more green than usual near the Lee Road traffic circle. Adjacent to Greiner Hall, in the field where disc golf enthusiasts can play a round overlooking Lake LaSalle, tremendous progress was made on a sustainability project thanks to volunteers in the UB Campus Garden Club. On the 20'x20' plot of land allotted to the organization you could find sizable shoots of asparagus, bulbous eggplants, ripe melons, a colorful display of rainbow chard, and a variety of peppers, including a pair of hot pepper plants grown from seeds harvested from Aleppo, Syria that were graciously donated by Janice Cochran of Wellness and Education Services.

Hard work and diligence led the Garden Crew to a successful yield this autumn, despite a noticeable lack of water during a record-breaking dry summer. The club intends to be better prepared for such weather going into the 2017 growing season, and they believe they will be with help from another UB organization, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW). As part of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) competition, the ESW parks project is beginning to develop a structure that will showcase the engineering skills of a group of devoted and intelligent students, as well as provide the garden with a number of new features.

The project, which has been spearheaded by four ESW members, Austin Izzo, Alec Ruby, Austin Reese, and Mark Geraci, focuses on providing a portable and functional community learning space that will engage students and faculty with the concept of sustainability and the garden. The planned construction would offer the garden crew a work and storage space, and the roof area has been maximized to allow for the collection of rainwater so that the club will have an additional source of water to ensure a healthy crop. A clear roof and a lattice have been proposed, which would allow for a variety of plants to be grown in and off of their creation. Due to the portability of the pavilion structure, there is opportunity for the two clubs to continue to collaborate on similar designs in the future as the garden club works to expand to additional locations on campus.

The club has come a long way since its inception nearly a year ago. Started by a small group of environmentally conscious students as a project to rejuvenate an abandoned green space and teach students about the joys and processes involved with urban gardening, the club continues to grow and you can be updated on their developments in a pair of newsletters. One, specifically for club members, announces upcoming events and outlines meeting minutes and is distributed weekly to nearly sixty individuals. The second, titled 'The Friends of The Garden Newsletter,' goes out once a month to around three hundred and fifty people throughout the Western New York community and is used to bring awareness to the university's sustainability movement and how the garden club is contributing. More information about how to join these mailing lists can be found below.

The Garden Crew needs your help! For the 2017 growing season, the UB Campus Garden Club will begin by starting their plants by seed in the Dorsheimer Greenhouse. These plants will be utilized for the campus garden, as well as the club's second annual mother's day plant sale fundraiser, which will be announced early in the spring semester. The club also intends to build raised beds before planting in order to ensure that all of their plants are growing in clean, nutrient rich soil, and that precious water isn't lost to runoff. There will also be an opportunity to intern with UB Sustainability to manage the summer volunteers and growth of the garden while much of the UB community is away. All members of the UB community are invited to participate in these tasks.

UB Campus Garden Club will be holding a few more meetings before the end of the fall semester and all students and faculty are welcome to join them! Meetings are held Wednesday nights at 7pm in Greiner c134, please feel free to join and contribute ideas regarding the design and plant selection for next year's garden. If you are interested in more information about joining the club, applying for the internship or would like to be added to the mailing list for upcoming 'Friends of The Garden' newsletters, please contact, or any of the e-board members listed below. Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook by searching 'UB Campus Garden Club' for additional updates and photos of the growth of the garden and ongoing projects.


UB Campus Garden Club Executive Board is:

President- Sasha Azeez-
Vice President- Eric Shaver-
Treasurer -Alyssa Rosenbauer-
Secretary- Bruce Nagel-

Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 14:50

Next week, our campus will be celebrating Earth Week with a number of awesome events for students, faculty and staff to participate in. It’s been officially spring for almost a month now, but I think after a weekend of snow and cold that we’re ready for the real spring weather to grace us with it’s presence! The weather is finally starting to warm up, and soon many us of will head to the gardens to begin work for the planting season.

UB Campus Dining and Shops would like to help ensure a green and bountiful growing season both on campus and throughout Western New York. We invite all members of the UB community to pick up nutrient-rich soil amendment, free of charge, for use in flower and vegetable gardens or as a compost supplement. The soil amendment is a blend of pre and post-consumer food waste from UB Dining locations. The mixture contains scraps from fruits, vegetables, breads and meats that have gone through our Eco-Smart® Food Dehydrator system. Free bags of soil amendment, or bring your own containers, can be picked up from the Statler Commissary on North Campus beginning Monday, April 18 through Friday, April 22 (Earth Day); 1pm-6pm. For additional information, contact the Commissary Office at 716-645-2832.

UB Campus DIning and Shops also has a several other events planned for the week, alongside many wonderful events being put on by student groups and the Office of Sustainability.

On Tuesday April 19, UB Campus Dining and Shops will be setting up in Capen Cafe from 9AM to 11:30AM to engage with students about sustainability. Participants will be asked sustainability-minded trivia questions, and winners will be rewarded with reusable mugs to limit the waste of disposable, one-time-use paper coffee cups!

On Wednesday April 20 and Thursday April 21, UB Campus Dining and Shops will be hosting tours of the Statler Commissary, including our composting center. These tours will be offered at 11AM and 4PM on both dates. Sign ups for the tours will be offered at our tabling event on April 19. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend to learn more about the composting process here on campus, and other ways CDS works to recycle and reduce waste, water usage, and energy consumption.

Also on the dates of April 20 and Thursday April 21, UB CDS will be visiting a couple of our dining centers to talk to students more about composting, with the possibility of UB Campus Garden members joining us to talk more about the club and encourage students to participate. On Wednesday April 20, we will be located in the C3 Dining Hall from 5:30PM to 7:30PM, and on Wednesday April 21 will be setting up in Goodyear Dining Hall from 5:30PM to 7:30PM. Stop by to learn about composting and how UB works to reduce our environmental footprint by diverting food waste!

Earth Week is a great opportunity to learn more about your role on campus and discover ways to get involved and aid the University at Buffalo in becoming a more sustainable, Earth-friendly campus!

For other events and updates regarding Earth Week, check the link below to see the events calendar curated by the Office of Sustainability:

Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 12:15

The 2006 report Livestock's Long Shadow, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, states that "the livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution." According to this report, the livestock sector accounts for 15 per cent of global emissions, equivalent to exhaust emissions from all the vehicles in the world, and it is estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet.

When it comes to water consumption by the livestock industry, pound for pound, meat has a much higher water footprint than vegetables, grains or beans. For instance, a single pound of beef takes, on average, 1,800 gallons of water. Skipping out on a pound of beef is the equivalent of not showering for six months.

It has been estimated that global meat consumption may double from 2000 to 2050, mostly as a consequence of increasing world population, but also partly because of increased per capita meat consumption.

A shift to healthier patterns of meat-eating could bring a quarter of the emissions reductions we need to keep on track for a two-degree world.

As a vegetarian in the process of cutting out more animal products, such as milk and eggs, I can honestly say that living life with less meat can be challenging, but is ultimately the single best thing you can do to live more sustainably. In the three years I’ve chosen to not eat meat, I’ve saved the lives of over 600 animals. I’ve spared over 4800 lbs of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. And I’ve diverted the use of over 290,000 gallons of water.

While I choose to advocate for a more plant-based lifestyle, I recognize that diet is a personal choice and a touchy subject for many people. I encourage my audience to simply look at their meat consumption habits and decide for themselves if there are not other ways to get important nutrients in their diet in more sustainable ways. Often times, just choosing to have one plant-based meal a week is a step in the right direction, and can be beneficial for your health as well. In terms of health and the environment, choosing to eat fish and poultry is also a better choice over red meat. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, try out a vegan restaurant with some friends (Amy’s Place, anyone?), attend a UB Veg Club meeting, or try out the tofu instead of a meat option at Guac & Roll (seriously, it’s delicious). Making small changes in your diet can have a big impact. Happy eating!