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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Getting Caught Green Handed

The UB Green office is getting a lot done this summer.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

These three words are the classic combination for a green recipe sure to shed those nasty polluting pounds while exercising environmental awareness.

With terms ranging from alternative energy sources to global warming, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) to composting, it can be overwhelming trying to digest all the pro-environment jargon. Some may even be led to believe Kermit the frog said it best with "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Since 1999, UB has been fighting to ease the confusion that is clouding environmentalism, kicking Kermit to the curb with the creation of UB Green.

"UB Green does exist," said Erin Moscati, environmental educator of UB Green. "The University at Buffalo has a formal office dedicated to promoting sustainability on campus and greening the campus operations."

The eco-organization is responsible for shining a light on various issues, demonstrating how simple alternatives in one's lifestyle can support positive changes. The aim is for UB to become a climate neutral space by 2030 by striving to eliminate the emission of harmful greenhouse gases.

With the office conveniently located on the edge of South Campus, the UB Green facility provides the community with a knowledgeable staff and a library exclusively filled with environmental books and videos.

Moscati is a strong promoter for green options and advocates for as much involvement as possible.

"I'd really just empower [the students] to kind of take responsibility and let everybody know that whatever your passion is, if you're interested in bettering the environment, there's a way for you to do that within your…field of study or your hobby," Moscati said.

Through UB Green's innovative thinking, the university has created opportunities that make it possible for students to be active in making a difference.

The annual UB Commuter Challenge encourages the university's community members to take alternative modes of transportation to school. The five week long competition starts in the first full week of September and lasts through the beginning of October.

"Take the bus, the NFTA metro, bike, walk, carpool and we award points based on how many times you do this," said Jim Simon, associate environmental educator of UB Green. "So every week you sign up, you use whatever mode you want to use and at the end of the week you log how you did it so you get points for each mode."

Participants can enter the competition at anytime throughout the five weeks and are all guaranteed a certificate. Commuters that show exceptional dedication will additionally receive a prize. Simon explains how the challenge is not only enjoyable for the competition, but it exercises a good cause.

"Why is it a big deal that I ride my bike instead of driving," Simon said. "Well, you're going to be taking your car off the road and you're going to be burning less fossil fuel, and did you know that we're running out of oil in the ground?"

With minor changes to a daily routine, students have the power to be a tremendous influence on greening the campus and environment.

"The things that we buy, where we buy them from, all the decisions that we make will have a little impact," Simon said.

Using a personal water bottle instead of buying from the vending machine, a reusable bag over plastic, or ditching a busy grocery store for the local farmers market are all decisions that make a difference.

"It's a lot of fun going to the farmer's markets. You see people, you get to meet people, you get to see the farmer handing you the stuff they picked versus going to the store and seeing the banana that came from South America," Simon said. "You don't know who picked it, what the working situation was, how long it took to get across the ocean, how much gas was burned to fly the plane over here."

During the Fall and Spring months, Capen Hall hosts a small farmers market open to students and the UB community to purchase locally grown products. The diverse items range from baked goods to fresh fruits, honey sticks to canned jam.

Meatless Monday is another alternative that encourages an eco-friendly lifestyle. The consumption of meat leaves a larger carbon footprint than a diet without it because of the process and energy poured into its production. For devoted meatlovers, Meatless Monday may sound ridiculous, but it's the little changes in one's life that make an impact.

Recycling is another major contribution to being green that has been recently made easier at UB with the help of UB Green. The familiar three bins dedicated for plastics, glass, and paper will be simplified to a one bin system called Single Stream Recycling. Instead of bothering with the confusion of multiple recycling bins, student participation will be enhanced with the use of one bin that accepts any type of recyclable material.

UB will also see exciting changes with the addition of a new solar array that is expected to launch this summer. Funded by a grant from the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the solar park will be designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Walter Hood who will bring his artistic visions from Oakland, Calif. to Buffalo.

The 750 kilowatt solar park will be built on UB's North Campus and modeled after a strip of DNA, functioning as both a space to collect alternative energy and a learning facility. The creative installation will help power the on-campus apartments and reduce the amount of carbon emissions while being one of the largest solar arrays on a college or university campus in New York State.

Simon is excited about all that UB Green is doing this summer and hopes people continue to volunteer their time to help the cause.

"It's really easy to get caught up in the environment, polar bears up in Alaska, that's all great," Simon said. "But there's stuff that is happening right in our back yard…there's the Great Lakes, there's Lake Erie, Buffalo River. All these places are polluted because of the things that we do and the behaviors that we take."




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