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August 22, 2007
UNC to take a day to celebrate sustainability
Guest column
Cindy Pollock Shea

 

In our busy, goal-oriented lives, it's important to take time out to celebrate our accomplishments. So please consider this an open invitation to attend Campus Sustainability Day at UNC on Friday.

Many of you may have wondered what the university is doing to conserve water and energy or how we are teaching sustainability in the classroom. You may also have questions about the Carolina North campus or what we're doing to reduce car travel. This is your chance to find out.

UNC will celebrate Campus Sustainability Day in the Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence in Graham Memorial Hall in McCorkle Place, off East Franklin Street. At 9 a.m., the 2007 Campus Sustainability Report will be presented to Chancellor James Moeser, who will speak. At noon, state Sen. Janet Cowell will discuss new high-performance building and renewable energy legislation in North Carolina. Throughout the day there will be staffed exhibits on a wide range of sustainability topics from stormwater management to recycling to social justice. There will also be free Segway rides and refreshments. The event will last from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Making decisions and investments that advance environmental quality, economic prosperity and social welfare is important to everyone's future. At UNC, the coursework we offer, the research we engage in and the way we manage the campus reflects an ever-growing commitment to sustainability.

In 2005, for example, we completed the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in the UNC system. Today there are five buildings under design or construction on the campus that aspire to LEED certification standards. Three of the design teams aspire to achieve a LEED platinum level of certification, the highest designation available from the U.S. Green Building Council.

To manage stormwater and prevent sediment loading in downstream creeks, we have installed a wide variety of best management practices. The new FedEx Global Education Center on the corner of Pittsboro and McCauley streets contains two green roofs, one on the north side of the building and one on the west side that adjoins a patio with seating. This building is also the first on campus to store rainwater that is used to flush toilets. Several areas -- including the FedEx Center, the Ramshead Plaza and Hooker fields -- store rainwater to irrigate the landscape.

On the materials front, we achieved a record 43 percent recycling rate last year. By turning our discards into products of value in the marketplace, we reduce the demand for timber, conserve energy and raw materials, keep pollutants out of the air and water, create jobs and prolong the lives of our landfills. Paper constitutes the largest share of our standard recyclables, followed by organic waste from our landscape, food service operations and animal research. Beverage containers account for only 6 percent of our recyclables by weight.

In the classroom, many of our master of business administration students obtain a concentration in sustainable enterprise. They recognize the strategic advantage of managing the triple bottom line -- economic, environmental and social. Undergraduates interested in sustainability will soon be able to obtain a minor in sustainability that incorporates environmental science, business, policy and planning. Schools and departments such as public health, social work, anthropology, chemistry and geography are also expanding their offerings in sustainability.

Outside the classroom, UNC has one of the largest chapters in the country of Net Impact, a national MBA student organization supporting socially and environmentally responsible business. Undergraduates have formed the first environmental honors fraternity in the country and expanded the social justice mission of the Campus Y to include environment and development.

Come to help us celebrate and learn more on Friday.


Cindy Pollock Shea is director of UNC's Sustainability Office. More information about UNC's sustainability efforts is available at http://sustainability.unc.edu/




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