UNC has improved its sustainability efforts in the past two years, and it seems to be paying off.
The university received recognition from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, AASHE, and from the University of Indonesia’s Green Metric.
Chief sustainability officer and associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises Brad Ives defined sustainability as living in a way that allows future generations to enjoy the same standard of living and said UNC’s standing has much to do with an initiative launched in 2016.
“We think this recognizes our long history as an environmental leader here at the University of North Carolina, but more particularly lately we’ve engaged in something called the Three Zeroes Environmental Initiative, where we’re striving to be greenhouse gas neutral, add zero waste to landfills, and be water neutral. And the planning efforts around that have helped us with all of our rankings,” Ives said.
On AASHE’s Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, STARS, which asses the university’s research, business practices, environmental performance and planning, UNC received a Gold rating for the second time. Only three universities in the US have the higher Platinum STARS rating.
According to the ASSHE STARS rating, UNC excelled in innovation, public engagement and research with 81 percent of research-producing departments at the university engaged in sustainability research.
The University of Indonesia Green Metric, which ranks international universities on their performance combating global climate change, recycling and reducing energy and water use while also adopting green transportation strategies, ranked UNC thirteenth internationally and third in North America.
According to Ives, sustainability efforts include being financially responsible while also being a competitive business and providing the best resources available.
“We want to have good food; we want to have heated and cooled dormitories; we want to have the best of the best here. But we’ve got to do that in a way where we can balance the cost of that with the environmental impact,” said Ives.
UNC has promoted the Three Zeros initiative in several ways such as providing electric cars for faculty transportation, recycling and composting waste and reclaiming non-potable water.
Ives said that as a flagship university for the state, it is critical for UNC to be a leader in sustainability to attract like-minded people.
“I think its something that’s really important for this generation of students,” said Ives. “They see the excesses that have happened in previous generations. I think global warming is an issue that they believe in and want to do something about. They are highly focused on improving the environment and living in a way that’s going to be sustainable so that’s just a real key for us. When you look at the other highly ranked universities, these are the top universities in America and the places where the brightest students are going.”
UNC was also recognized last fall by the Sierra Club’s ‘Cool Schools’ ranking for its work in sustainable initiatives.