University News

Sustainable steps

At the three-year mark of the Three Zeros Initiative, learn how sustainable plans are evolving to meet the needs of our students, staff, faculty and surrounding community.

Students in the Pit with Interim Chancellor Guskiewicz
Three Zeros Environmental Initiative Leadership Award winner Allie Omens and runners-up with Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz on Three Zeroes Day. (L to R: Maiya Peterson, Guskiewicz, Omens, Bryn Walker).

In 2016, after Carolina’s Sustainability Office worked with stakeholders across campus to research and develop a campus sustainability plan, the University identified three ambitious sustainability goals: net zero water usage, zero waste to landfills and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

From these goals came Carolina’s integrated approach to reducing its environmental footprint: the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative.

The Three Zeros Day celebration each fall highlights the progress toward zero and the partnerships throughout campus and in our community that make it possible.

Here’s a peek at how sustainable plans are evolving to meet the needs of our students, staff, faculty and surrounding community.

A Restoration for the Future

The University is working steadily to decrease its carbon footprint and move away from using coal.

Campus administrators continually look for ways to reduce overall energy consumption and increase the use of renewable energy while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2007, campus greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 19%, even as the number of campus buildings has expanded dramatically. A project now underway at the Cogeneration Facility will take those emissions even lower.

The facility’s burners are being restored so the plant can maintain fuel flexibility while doubling the amount of natural gas burned. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of this year, allowing the use of natural gas to increase from 25% to 50% in 2020. As a result, coal use will significantly decrease, and campus greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by roughly 5%.

“We are constantly moving toward more renewable energy sources, and the foundation of our strategy is maintaining the flexibility to efficiently burn solid, liquid and gaseous fuels,” said Lew Kellogg, executive director of Energy Services, which includes Three Zeros.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Steadily Declining

As part of the University’s commitment to signing the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in 2007, Carolina conducts annual greenhouse gas inventories to track progress. The latest greenhouse gas inventory report explains how a 19% overall decrease in GHG emissions was achieved even with campus square footage and campus populations growth. Moving toward carbon neutrality by 2050 means exploring strategies for emission reductions such as energy efficiency, cogeneration fuel switching and renewable electricity options.

Currently, Carolina is updating its Climate Action Plan, which will contain more information about these strategies.

Learn more on the Three Zeros website