In 2009, the UNC System adopted a Sustainability Policy compelling each of the schools in the system to recognize sustainability as a core value, and to work toward carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest.
Working toward that goal, UNCG established a Sustainability Council, developed a Climate Action Plan, committed to constructing new buildings to United States Green Building Council LEED Silver standards, embedded sustainability-related topics across the curriculum, including annual appointments of Sustainability Faculty Fellows, and has initiated a process to move toward socially responsible investing strategies, with the involvement of governance groups and investment committees.
Four years ago, students elected to establish a Green Fund which has since invested over $183,000 in 39 projects that include numerous research and professional development opportunities for students, the creation of campus wetlands, and the installation of occupancy sensors in dorms, outdoor LED lighting, a cistern to collect rainwater, and electric vehicle charging stations in the Oakland parking deck (more are being installed in McIver), to name but a few. Those efforts have produced annual savings of over $16,000 and an annual reduction of 230,000+ kWh used.
All of that work recently earned UNCG a STARS Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). (See full story.) STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. With more than 800 participants in 30 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
Furthermore, UNCG was just ranked within the top 101-200 universities globally in the inaugural Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, which measures global universities’ success in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which serve as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Those rankings reflect the day-to-day operations and culture of UNCG’s campus community. At UNCG, we define sustainability as the enduring interconnectedness of social equity, the environment, economy, and aesthetics. That interconnectedness provides a foundation from which we aim to instill values that promote justice and invent innovative approaches and solutions to environmental and economic challenges.
Whether you attend guest lectures from leading experts in climate change, ride a bike, rent a Zipcar, recycle (UNCG has an average annual landfill diversion rate of about 40 percent), or join student clubs that garden, clean-up streams, and reduce food waste, there’s never a lack of opportunity to learn about or to lessen your impact on the environment. Earth Day may only come once a year, but at UNCG we do our best to celebrate and protect the Earth every day.
This April 22 is the 49th anniversary of Earth Day. We hope you will join us for our Earth Day Fair as student clubs and UNCG departments table from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the EUC lobby. Then on Friday, April 26, we’ll celebrate Arbor Day with a tree planting and a walking tour of our Tree Campus USA – meet in the EUC quad near Campus Ministries at 10 a.m. Later in the day, you can attend a nutrition workshop on a plant-based diet – register here.
Copy provided by Sean MacInnes, Sustainability Specialist