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A Retrospective: 1998-2013

Over the past fifteen years, 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 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.

199819992001200220032004200520062007200820092010201120122013

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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 with 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, a group of volunteer staff, faculty, and students who identified and implemented 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 on campus. 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. In 2009, the mandate was expanded to include energy efficiency and awareness-efforts. In 2013, 83% of the student body voted to make the fee permanent.

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

In 2005, the University formed the Vice Chancellor's Sustainability Advisory Committee and implemented the Campus Sustainability Policy. The policy 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 Carrington Hall Addition, 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 climate neutrality by 2050. 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 the 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 majority of campus energy use, operates efficiently. Similarly, a new reclaimed water system, constructed in partnership with OWASA, enabled the University to dramatically reduce its demand for potable water. 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 is 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. 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. In March 2010, Carolina's Campus Community Garden on Wilson Street in Chapel Hill opened to provide the space and support to grow vegetables and fruit so that all employees could have access to fresh produce, and to foster a community among staff, students, faculty and the local residents.

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2011

The UNC Energy Dashboard website, launched in 2011, displays near real-time steam, chilled water, and electricity use data for more than 200 campus buildings. The dashboard interface was custom designed for UNC. Building energy consumption for all three utilities, plus renewable energy sources, can be viewed in hourly, monthly, and annual increments. The data also enables comparisons of energy among buildings and informs occupants of real-time energy consumption and the effects of behavior and technical changes within the building.

The Institute for the Environment launched the Sustainable Triangle Field Site (STFS) in spring of 201 as an urban field site experience located on and near the UNC campus. New sustainability-related courses such as "Principles of Sustainability," and "Reimagining the American Landscape," challenge students to think critically about sustainability in the present and the future.

To increase awareness of sustainability on campus, the UNC Sustainability Office began the Carolina Green Online Pledge, in which students and staff promise to practice energy and water conservation, smart transportation and purchasing behaviors, waste management and investment practices, and become involved in the community. In its inaugural year, the pledge was taken by more than 2,500 students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

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2012

In 2012, UNC introduced the first pan-campus theme, a three-year focus on "Water in our World." "Water in our World" includes course development grants, research, and multi-disciplinary events that enhance our understanding of the most basic resource.
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2013

In 2013, both the Genome Sciences Building and the Koury Oral Health Sciences Building became LEED Gold certified. The Genome Sciences Building is the first campus building to use chilled beams that provide cooling independent of the ventilation system, while Koury is the first building on campus to capture and use condensate water from mechanical equipment. To ensure continuing sustainable projects on campus, 83% of students voted to make permanent the $4 per semester student fee that funds energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

In summer 2013, the Institute for the Environment led its first Burch Summer Program, a study abroad program that focuses on renewable energy and urban planning in Germany, Denmark, and Sweden.

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