Too little, too late?: Sustainability efforts at UB seem lackluster


Destroying our world can't be the best option. We aren't leaving it anytime soon. So on the surface, UB Sustainability seems like a good thing. We're working to make things better.

UB's effort comes across as noble. There's a lingering uncertainty that it's both not enough and a slightly calculated move. Furthermore, these efforts are entirely contingent on the students and faculty. We have to be the change – no outside body can force us to make the changes necessary.

UB Sustainability aims to have the whole campus climate neutral by 2030. Why 2030? If we really cared, we would be making the efforts now, not gradual changes over 15 years.

Furthermore, the changes in place now seem unduly limited. Composting in Culinary Crossroads Center (C3) is a great start, as the United States wastes millions of tons of food yearly. President Obama recently unveiled a plan to combat waste, too.

But if we're only using the compost “on campus and beyond,” then how much are we actually saving? Why are we only implementing these changes in a few dining halls?

Half measures are not enough.

The other major selling point for UB Sustainability concerns new buildings. New buildings will be built to a gold-level on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Why only gold? The rating system goes up to platinum, so why not go for the best?

Furthermore, is this system only being applied to new buildings? We saw the results of a failing power infrastructure on South Campus a few weeks ago, so it's probably fair to assume that existing buildings across both campuses don't adhere to these ratings. Is anything being done to bring them into line?

Climate change becomes a more serious issue with every passing day. Our ice caps are disappearing rapidly and severe weather erupts more violently every year as a direct cause of our actions.

We don't have time to wait – certainly not 15 years to become “climate neutral.” We have to take actions to fix what we have done and prevent further damage.

The UB community needs to address this issue seriously – and not as a marketing measure, not as a sop to appease the concerned parties. There needs to be serious action now.

This is not to denigrate the Chief Sustainability Officer Ryan McPherson. His actions are probably mitigated by the school. What we need to do is support his measures fully and push for more.

But the biggest hurdle facing true sustainability at UB remains the people who inhabit it. Students and faculty have to not only push for the sustainable infrastructure to be put into place, but have to make the effort ourselves. Consciously conserving energy, recycling and being caretakers of what we have will be necessary to evoke any change.

The efforts put forward so far by UB Sustainability are great, gallant even. But they remain, like so many endeavors, not enough. We must strive to make amends for the damage caused by prior and current actions and the urgency is immense. There can't be room for slow change. Every person has to do his or her part and be the change we wish for in the world.

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