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Sustainability Blog

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 16:14

Welcome to the sustainability blog! I hope everyone has been well since Eric’s last post. I’m Maylan Nguyen and I’d like to introduce myself as the new Student Sustainability Coordinator here at Campus Dining and Shops. I am a third year Environmental Geosciences student who loves to stay involved on campus. Last year, I was the Community Standards Coordinator for Greiner Hall Council and I am currently the treasurer of UB Campus Garden Club and UB Advocates for Girl’s Education (formerly known as Girl Effect). Over the summer, I interned for the Office of Sustainability and tended the Campus Garden. I also like to advertise that I’m an avid recycler and live by the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m very enthusiastic about sustainable living and try to practice it every day, on campus and off. I’m very glad to work for an organization that has the same values and implements those values on a wider scale.

Each post will cover one of the wide range of topics pertaining to sustainability. This includes everything from food waste to the importance of green space to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as information on sustainable events and programs happening right here on campus. By following this blog, I hope to not only provide you with ideas and tips on how to be a sustainable student, but to also educate and incite an environmental consciousness that stays with you for life.

Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 23:23

With days remaining before finals week, just about everyone’s mind has surely drifted to thoughts of some warm, poolside evenings, or the feeling of freedom upon arriving at a vacation destination. We’re almost there! I am personally looking forward to spending a week in the Adirondacks and enjoying all the joys that nature can provide. While I’m out there, I’m going to do my best to follow some of the following tips to stay sustainable while enjoying the summer haze.
As I have mentioned in several of my past articles, being conscious of the environmental impact of our food is of the utmost importance. Participating in home gardening, and canning the fruits and veggies of your labor can cut back on your summer expenses, freeing up money for other activities that only the summer months can fulfill. I plan on bringing some of my homegrown goods with me to the mountains, and whenever possible, buying from local farmers markets or roadside stands instead of supermarket chains. Be conscious of food miles, and support the people around you! I promise, it will feel good and chatting with the locals may help you find interesting and less touristy places to explore!
Many of us are preparing our swimming pools as a method of combating the summer heat. I cannot wait to jump in after a long day at work, nothing is more refreshing. Considering that more than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but less that 1% is actually drinkable, let’s make sure we don’t waste any more than we need when managing our pools. Same goes for watering your garden! Build some raised beds for your veggies and flowers. Not only is it an attractive way to decorate your green space, it also helps preserve water by preventing run off, and when you fill the beds with your own soil, you can be sure you have the cleanest and most nutrient rich soil available.
Another summer favorite is to break out the grill, an American pastime. Propane burns much cleaner than charcoal...but if you insist on using charcoal for flavor, try natural lump charcoals. They burn hotter, and much cleaner than briquettes, which give off a bunch of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when lit! Then, when the food is laid out on the table and ready to serve, think twice about using styrofoam of plastic plates and silverware. It might take a little more time to clean up your regular dishware, but it is better than those pesky plastics sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years. If you are serving too many people, or you’re out in the mountains and don’t have access to the regular plates, forks and knives, purchase compostable ones! Future generations will thank you.
Most of all, get outside and enjoy the weather. Take your bike to the local market or to work a couple times a week. A stroll through the park, the forest or the beach can do you wonders after the stress of another spring semester. If you’ve spent more than a year in Buffalo, you know that the blistering cold will be back before you know it, so enjoy the warmth while you can and turn off the air-conditioning when it’s not completely necessary. I’m much more comfortable sleeping a chilled room, but no one needs to be wearing a sweater in their home during a Buffalo summer. Put those away until October when you have no choice!
Congratulations to all who are graduating this semester! And for the rest of us...another semester down my friends. Sadly, this will be my last post as Student Sustainability Coordinator. I’d like to thank Campus Dining and Shops for this opportunity to write to you all, to speak with you in the dining halls, and to learn from both of those experiences many valuable things about being sustainable and promoting it to our community at large. I will still be at UB for a few more semesters, and would like to stay involved with our sustainability efforts.. If you’d like to collaborate, please get in touch!
To a wonderful summer! Thank you UB!

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

Relevant Links:
https://www.localharvest.org/search.jsp?jmp&scale=8&lat=42.89797&lon=-78...
https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/9-reasons-try-canning-summer.html
http://www.cowboycharcoal.com/products/cowboy-hardwood-lump
https://www.birksun.com/
https://www.green-talk.com/organic-bug-repellent-for-garden/

Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 17:51

The Statler Commissary on UB’s north campus serves as the primary food distribution center for Campus Dining and Shops. UB’s catering services are conducted at the commissary, and the ‘grab and go’ foods you find at locations such as Capen Cafe, are made and packaged there daily. Not only does the Campus Dining and Shops maintain the status of #1 food service program among SUNY University Centers (four years running), they also take in the food waste from the UB dining centers for processing into a soil amendment.

In June of 2009 The Statler Commissary unveiled its Eco-Smart food dehydrator and expanded the composting efforts of the University from an outdoor compost pile (originally located on South Campus) to a pioneering endeavor into the realm of waste-management. The process of decomposition in the outdoor pile would take months before usable materials were generated, but now the food waste can be sorted, ground and dried in a matter of fourteen hours. The efforts made by Campus Dining and Shops and the Statler Commissary divert three tons of food waste per-week from local landfills and a soil amendment is made available, free of charge, to anyone who requests it.

Unfortunately, as I have brought to your attention before, the university produces more food waste than can currently be handled at the commissary. Up to seven additional tons per week are collected by a company that UB has forged a relationship with, Natural Upcycling located in Linwood, New York. While there is much to be said about how we can reduce that number, it is good to see that it is not truly wasting away.

Natural Upcycling carries out around thirty of our sixty-five gallon totes every week, and transports them to Noblehurst Farms, a dairy farm also located in Linwood. The waste that Natural Upcycling collects is added to the farm’s enormous anaerobic digester, the second of its kind built in the US, which processes the liquid food waste from dairy processing, manure, plant and food scraps from the farm, and pre-consumer organics from other locations. The machine mixes up to 1.33 million gallons of material at a time and heats it to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing microorganisms to break down the organic material without the need of oxygen, creating biogas that is then converted into electricity, which serves to take the farm off the grid entirely, and powers 400 nearby households for an entire year. Excess energy is bought by a local utility company and post-process liquids are used to fertilize the farm’s soil!

This is a beautiful example of a natural and circular process that you can take advantage of right at home. Using what we traditionally consider to be organic ‘waste’ to restore the nutrient composition in your home garden is something that can be accomplished relatively easily. As mentioned above, the Statler Commissary offers soil amendment made from UB’s food waste, but by constructing your own compost bin at home, you can divert the organic material from your kitchen away from landfills, and preserve the nutrients for your own home garden. A variety of items from around your house can be added to such a bin to develop a compost rich in carbon and nitrogen. Table scraps provide a source of nitrogen and should be added to your bin with dry carbon items such as leaves and other plant clippings, which should be shredded so they break down more quickly. Be careful with leftover meats though, as this could attract pests. Fruit and vegetable scraps are best! Grass clippings, lawn and garden weeds, and straw can be used as nitrogen sources as well. But be sure to add in thin layers to avoid clumping, and do not add weeds which have gone to seed because they are extremely prolific and may end up growing in your compost, taking the nutrients you’ve collected for themselves. For a list of materials that you can add to your compost bin, check out the Eartheasy link I have provided below.

The summer season is approaching fast and if you are planning a garden, the Statler Commissary has the nutrients you need for healthy and bountiful crop. The amendment can be picked up pre-packaged but the workers at the Commissary encourage you to bring your own containers so that you can get the amount you need and reduce the use of plastic bags. With that being said, it is never too late to start composting your own scraps. To put into perspective the impact our food waste has on the earth, if global food waste could be represented as its own country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US!
Get composting and have a great growing season!

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

Relevant Links:
http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html
http://www.climatecentral.org/gallery/graphics/food-waste-methane-and-cl...
https://www.buffalo.edu/buildings/building?id=statler
https://www.green-talk.com/its-gardening-time-roll-out-the-compost/

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 16:27

Recyclemania is a good-natured competition pining college and university recycling programs against each other to promote activities to reduce the waste produced on their campuses. It began in January of 2001 as a challenge between Ohio University and Miami University. Miami came out on top that year and the success of the competition led them to invite other universities to participate the following year. In 2004, the program partnered with the US EPA WasteWise program, and by 2008 four hundred schools were involved! Now, for eight weeks each spring schools from the United States and Canada report to Recyclemania the amount of waste they produce, and the amount of material they have been able to recycle. This information is ranked into categories based on diversion, waste minimization and per capita recycling of paper, corrugated cardboard, bottles and cans and organic material.

The Diversion category is an all-encompassing score based on the prevention of all the above materials from ending up in landfills. The officials at Recyclemania calculate the results by adding the weight of recyclables and food organics, and dividing that by the sum of the weight of recyclables, food and trash and then multiplying this by one hundred. This year, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) was ranked number one with a recycling rate of 83.897%! LMU has impressive stats across the board, ranking #2 in the Per Capita Classic, and #1 in the categories of paper, bottle and can, and corrugated cardboard recycling. This Californian private university has ranked high in most categories for years, and their Green LMU program is a beautiful example of what our own sustainability movement could become.

Rhode Island School of Design took the title in the Per Capita Classic, with a final score of 76.09 lbs per capita. As mentioned above, LMU took a close second with 72.71 lbs per capita. In the category of total recycling, Rutgers University dominated with a total of 2,333,670 lbs, second place Stanford University totaled only 1,610,644 lbs (still impressive). North Lake College, a community college in Irving, Texas claimed first place in Waste Minimization, with an impressive 4.135 lbs per capita, UB scored #51 with 34.552.

Although UB’s ranking does not stand out in the overall competition (#98 Diversion, #151 Per Capita), our school should still take pride in the fact that we participate in a program in which the efforts of the competitors serves to promote the preservation of the earth and sustainable practices in general. UB Office of Sustainability released a Climate Action Plan in 2009, and in the years since we have made great strides towards climate neutrality and in changing the culture of the Western New York community to be one mindful of our impact on the world. While there is still much progress to be made, we should note that in terms of New York State ranking UB did well, taking #1 in waste minimization, #7 in total recycling and #9 in organics, a category where we scored better than our 2016 scores each week! In a competition where positions differ by fractions of a percent that’s not half bad, and having our name listed amongst other universities who are developing sustainability programs opens up the doors for intercollegiate cooperation, and we should learn from those above us in the ranking.

For more a comprehensive analysis of the results of the entire competition, visit the links below. At the Recyclemania website you can see how every school ranked, and create your own custom ranking to compare UB to other schools based on peer group, athletic conference, state, and school size. Let us take pride in our participation and set goals to do even better next year!

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

Relevant Links:
http://recyclemaniacs.org/scoreboard/participating-schools/list?node_id=...
http://www.buffalo.edu/sustainability.html

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 17:59

Just over a year ago I could be found walking through the Student Union, undoubtedly on my way to find my place in the line of groggy students waiting eagerly for their caffeine fix to be satisfied. The weather had been decent and distractions were easy to come by, especially when lacking the aforementioned caffeine. My somnolent mind was making a feeble attempt at organizing the tasks I had in front of me as the semester was drawing to a close, when I was stopped by a group of students tabling in the foyer.

“Hey, you look like you like to garden,” said a student who introduced himself to me as Max. The conversation that ensued was intriguing, and soon I felt an excitement arise in me. A hopeful sentiment that I may have found something to put my hand in developing at UB and to make some new friends. By the time I walked away, still keen on downing a large coffee before my first class, I was convinced to join UB Campus Garden Club for their first informational meeting, where they would be discussing their plans to rehabilitate the garden at the Lee Road traffic circle.

I could not hope to relate to you within the confines of this blog all of the wonderful friendships and opportunities attending that meeting opened up for me. But by the end of that semester I had become Vice President of the club, and secured my place interning at the UB Office of Sustainability with the responsibility of managing the volunteer corps that would be taking care of the garden over the summer. Interacting with peers who see the importance of maintaining green space, especially in an urban community like Buffalo, has opened my eyes to a multi-faceted world of growth and renewal. Although I could write endlessly about the individual moments that make this club mean so much to me, I’d like to devote this blog to talking about our current projects in hope that some of you will join us on our quest to make UB a more beautiful and sustainable place to live and work.

The 20’ by 20’ plot of land that we currently manage served us moderately well last growing season, but various roadblocks including a weak water source, a lack of pollinators, and absolutely no hope for shade got us thinking about relocation. Multiple areas had been laid on the table during meetings in the fall, and after careful consideration we decided to focus our efforts on moving the garden near the solar strand. The area just north of the center for tomorrow parking lot is where our minds have been for the past few months. There, we found a more reliable source of water and plenty of trees to address the lack of shade, as well as to provide a windbreak that would be essential to our biggest project yet.

UB Campus Garden Club has proposed to the University a set of plans regarding the implementation of an on-campus apiary. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, we are talking about a location devoted to bee-keeping. Not only would this help pollinate our plants to ensure a bountiful crop, we would also be participating in the rehabilitation of our local habitat. If bee populations continue to decline at the rate we have seen in recent years, our civilization may cease to be sustainable. We depend on pollination for the growth of our food plants. UB’s resident bee-keeper, David Marotta has offered his time and knowledge to help us develop an apiary, and we have made the proper connections to initiate this development on an administrative level . But this is where we need your help. In order to prove to the University that this garden club is as force that is here to stay, we not only have to relate to the administration that our goals are to offer new educational tools and a source of fun and relaxation, but we must spread our roots and involve the University at large.

Are you part of a club, team or department on campus? If so, UB Campus Garden Club would like to invite you to build a raised bed at our current location! Our goal here is not only to fill the land we have access to with beautiful examples of what our earth can produce, but to develop long term relationships with other campus groups and give back to the school that gave us this opportunity. In concert with our efforts, and with access to our club’s various skill sets and knowledge, members of your group can engage with each other throughout the spring planning months and over the summer gardening months to grow plants you want to see and use! Gardening has proven to us to be a great team building exercise and the high visibility of the bed can be a fantastic promotional tool! There is still plenty of time for your to get involved with us this growing season and to help bring to life this endeavor UB Campus Garden Club has found passion in, so please reach out to us if you are interested. Contact information can be found below!

In studying anthropology I have been confronted with the fact that in our culture we often find ourselves separating our personal identities from the natural world around us. But permaculture does not exist in a realm divorced from the human experience. In fact, at this point the sustainability of our planet depends on the combined action of humanity. Pessimists will tell you that we cannot save the world, but UB Campus Garden Club is a good place to start thinking about it. In learning about this planet and our place on it, I find myself reaching an empowering point in my college career where I can honestly envision myself accomplishing great things. Not only in a future job as an anthropologist, but right here on this campus in the coming years. I would not have this opportunity if not for the cooperation and devotion of the wonderful friends I have made since applying to UB and joining this organization. I cannot thank them enough and I hope to meet and collaborate with more of you on this journey.

The Fall 2017/Spring 2018 UB Campus Garden Club Executive Board is…
President- Sasha Azeez: sashaaze@buffalo.edu
Vice President- Jacob Leale: jacoblea@buffalo.edu
Treasurer- Alyssa Rosenbauer/Maylan Nguyen: arosenba@buffalo.edu/maylanng@buffalo.edu
Secretary- Brendan Ash: bash@buffalo.edu
Historian- Kelsey Gramza: klgramza@buffalo.edu
Project Manager- Eric Shaver: ericshav@buffalo.edu
Summer Intern- Maylan Nguyen: maylanng@buffalo.edu
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-Eric Shaver
ericshav@buffalo.edu
Student Sustainability Coordinator UB-CDS
Cultural Anthropology B.A. (In-Progress)
Vice President, UB Campus Garden Club

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