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A Retrospective: 1998-2011

Over the past decade, UNC has made tremendous strides in researching, teaching, and implementing sustainable practices throughout the University. Institutionalizing policies that foster economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social equity, funding sustainable development, and engaging campus community members in sustainability education ensures that sustainability will remain a core value for generations of Tar Heels to come. Active campus leadership and the participation of many individuals are advancing sustainability at the local, state, and national level.

1998199920012002200320042005200620072008200920102011

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1998

In 1998, the Carolina Environmental Program was formed as a campus-wide, interdisciplinary initiative focusing on environmental learning, research, and public service.

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1999

Organized efforts to institutionalize sustainability at UNC began in 1999, as two converging factors led to the formation of the Sustainability Coalition. Executive Order 156 from then-governor Jim Hunt called on all state agencies to adopt more sustainable practices. Simultaneously, UNC formed the Sustainability Coalition. This group of volunteer staff, faculty, and students organized committees to identify and implement green practices throughout campus. Areas of focus included academics, business operations, energy, transportation, water, land and buildings, material resources and waste reduction, and outreach.

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2001

In 2001, Carolina hired the first full-time sustainability coordinator in the UNC system to coordinate and accelerate sustainability efforts campus-wide. 2001 also marked the founding of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and a sustainable enterprise concentration for MBA graduates. The Campus Master Plan was approved in 2001, and State of North Carolina higher education bond money started flowing for one of the largest building programs ever undertaken by a major U.S. university.

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2002

In 2002, with the university's financial support, Chapel Hill Transit introduced fare-free public buses for everybody.

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2003

RESPC students in front of Morrison DormitoryStudents took the lead in 2003 by voting to adopt a $4 per semester green energy fee. The Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee, an official student government committee, allocates the $200,000 raised annually to fund renewable energy projects on campus. The self-imposed fee must be approved regularly by student referendum. It was originally approved by 74 percent of the voting student body, and has since been reapproved by 85 percent in 2005, and 83 percent in 2009, when the mandate was expanded to include energy efficiency and awareness raising.

Also in 2003, UNC launched a new phase in planning for the Carolina North campus and incorporated sustainability as a core value. Sustainability principles will guide the development of this 947-acre parcel, which will be a model of ecological, social, and economic sustainability. Almost one-third of the parcel will be put into a permanent conservation easement. Picture courtesty of the RESPC Committee.

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2004

In 2004, the Carolina Covenant was introduced to guarantee a debt-free education for students from low-income families. This approach was subsequently adopted by dozens of universities across the country.

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2005

2005 marked the University’s formal institutionalization of sustainability with the founding of the Vice Chancellor's Sustainability Advisory Committee and the implementation of the Campus Sustainability Policy. In the policy, it was established that “University policies, practices, and curricula should, when possible, embody approaches that reduce life cycle costs, restore or maintain the functioning of natural systems, and enhance human well-being.” The committee’s ongoing role is to “recommend long-term sustainability goals for the University and identify the means to achieve them.” Committee members include faculty, staff, administrators, and students. The committee is co-chaired by both the academic and operational arms of campus. Also in 2005, Carolina completed the first building in the UNC system to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

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2006

In 2006, UNC began to address climate change by joining the Town of Chapel Hill to become the first town-gown partners in the country to sign the Community Carbon Reduction Pledge. Both parties committed to a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. An Energy Efficient Purchasing Policy was enacted that requires the purchase of Energy Star-certified products.

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2007

In 2007, UNC became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, pledging the University to climate neutrality by midcentury. An Energy Efficient Lighting Policy was implemented and incandescent bulbs were phased out on campus by January 2008.

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2008

In 2008, the University completed its first comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and introduced a sustainability minor. Two University representatives were appointed to the founding Board of Trustees of the local Foundation for a Sustainable Community. UNC also provided a liaison to the Town of Chapel Hill’s new Sustainability Committee. Carolina contributed to UNC system initiatives by co-chairing a new committee tasked with developing a system-wide sustainability policy and by providing two subcommittee chairs.

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2009

A new Energy Policy in 2009 ensures that campus building systems, responsible for the lion’s share of energy use, will operate more efficiently. Similarly, a new reclaimed water system, constructed in partnership with OWASA, enables the University to dramatically reduce its demand for potable water. At final build out, the system will reduce total demand on the municipal water supply by 10 percent. These commitments will save millions of dollars annually and substantially reduce the University’s environmental footprint.

In 2009, the N.C. Botanical Garden Education Center opened to the public. This facility will be the first public building in the state to receive LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Also in 2009, the campus developed its long-term Climate Action Plan. An interim goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to year 2000 levels by 2020. Campus square footage has increased 50 percent since 2000. Strategies include switching to renewable fuel sources, designing and operating super-efficient buildings and energy systems, reducing materials use and waste generation, and providing transportation options that reduce reliance on single occupant vehicles. Achieving these goals will depend on the actions and behaviors of the entire campus community.

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2010

In 2010, Chancellor Holden Thorp commissioned an Energy Task Force to study energy issues on campus. The chancellor accepted all recommendations, including a commitment to end coal burning on campus by May 1, 2020. Carolina also won the EPA's first annual "Working Off the Waste" Competition, that pitted over 200 buildings against each other to see which could save the most energy. UNC's Morrison Residence Hall won the national competition, reducing energy use by 36% and preventing 733 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, all for under $35,000. Carolina's Campus Community Garden on Wilson Street in Chapel Hill provides the space and support to grow vegetables and fruit so that all employees have access to fresh produce; and to foster a community among staff, students, faculty and the local residents.

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