News Items from UNC Greensboro

UNCG’s carbon footprint has declined by 25% since 2009. Overall, the largest declines can be attributed to reductions in fossil fuel energy production by our utility provider, Duke Energy; the reduced occupancy of campus and the related declines in business travel and student commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and Facilities energy efficiency initiatives.

“Because of the pandemic, the reductions come with some caveats. If we want to achieve the UNC System goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels,” said Sean MacInnes, UNCG’s Sustainability Specialist. 

Global greenhouse gas emissions dipped 5.8 percent in 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic but have since rebounded. The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere recently reached a record high of 419 parts per million in November of 2021. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was the 2nd hottest year in recorded history and the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2005, putting the average global temperature on course for an increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

“If we look at the FY19 academic year, UNCG achieved a 5% reduction compared to FY18 – the single largest annual reduction since we started tracking our emissions, not accounting for recent reductions related to the pandemic,” MacInnes said. “That’s an achievement the university should be proud of, considering that’s pre-pandemic business-as-usual.” 

UNCG’s commitments to improving its energy data analysis capabilities, to designing new buildings to United States Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standards, and our continued participation in the HB 1292 utility savings carry forward initiative, have helped the university achieve a 9% reduction in annual electricity usage since 2009. The positive impact of those commitments is also reflected in a 21% reduction of energy consumption per square foot and an associated $59.2 million dollars of avoided costs in energy and water bills since 2003 – about which more detail can be read in UNCG’s annual Strategic Energy Plan reports.

Somewhat mirroring the global emissions trend, UNCG’s carbon footprint declined by 15% between FY19 and FY20, but then experienced a 2% increase from FY20 to FY21 as people returned to campus. “As we move forward from here, I think it’s important to recognize the complexity of the challenges we face in addressing global warming and the associated social inequities,” MacInnes said. “There may not be a one-size fits all solution, but there are, thankfully, many diverse actions we can all take that do make a measurable collective impact. Just as we’ve done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I know the Spartan community will also continue to come together to fight the climate crisis.”

For Spartans who want to do their part, there are several options: 

  • Residential students are encouraged to participate in the Green Room certification program.
  • Employees are encouraged to participate in the Green Office certification program.
  • Everyone is encouraged to participate in the UNCG Commuter Survey to help the Office of Sustainability track emissions from all modes of transportation. 

Read the full FY21 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report and look for the recycling symbol on the UNCG Mobile App for more UNCG Sustainability resources.

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