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UB effort turns to founder of Earth Day

Some of the best-known environmental advocates have been making their way to the University at Buffalo this semester, with "Mr. Earth Day," Denis Hayes, in town Tuesday and former Vice President Al Gore due on campus at the end of the month.

It's part of a semester-long effort at UB to shed light on environmental issues.

Wangaari Maathi, 2004 Nobel Peace laureate and founder of the Greenbelt Movement, was on campus in February discussing her expansive tree-planting initiatives.

Ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, stressed environmental activism when he spoke at UB in March.

Now, Hayes, a solar-energy expert and organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, will visit the campus.

Hayes, president of a Seattle-based charitable fund dedicated to protecting the natural environment of the Pacific Northwest, will speak about breakthroughs in the solar and renewable energy fields at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the UB North Campus.

The talk, sponsored by UB Green, the environmental office of University Facilities, will be free and open to the public.

Meanwhile, Gore -- who has renewed his mission to reverse global warming since losing the 2000 presidential election -- speaks to a sold-out evening crowd in Alumni Arena on April 27, wrapping up UB's 2006-07 Distinguished Speakers Series.

He will give his talk to local high school students that afternoon.

UB's semester-long environmental theme, "A Greener Shade of Blue," also has been about promoting alternative energy sources and reducing energy costs by highlighting some of UB's own conservation efforts.

Some examples:

* UB reached a milestone in January, when it made its last payment on a $17 million energy-conservation project it launched 10 years ago.

The project -- which included such campus conservation measures as converting to natural gas, more-efficient ventilation systems and more-efficient lighting -- will continue to save the university millions of dollars a year, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to UB.

It's reduced the university's carbon dioxide emissions by 31,000 tons annually, or the amount that 6,000 cars would generate each year, according to UB.

* UB stepped up its environmental obligation when UB President John B. Simpson signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in March.

The university is one of only 133 American colleges and universities that have signed the commitment to achieve "climate neutrality," by reducing its greenhouse emissions and using other measures to offset the rest, according to the school.

* In the fall, UB introduced a light-bulb exchange program that encourages students in UB residence halls to trade in their incandescent bulbs for more-energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights.

So far, 500 UB students have taken the university up on its offer. And while the more-energy-efficient bulbs cost a little more -- $2 to $3 each -- UB expects the program to pay for itself in less than a year, thanks to the energy savings.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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