By Olivia James
UNC Sets Ambitious Sustainability Goals
Launched in 2016, Chancellor Folt’s Three Zeros Environmental Initiative is Carolina’s integrated approach to reducing its environmental footprint through three sustainability goals: net zero water usage, zero waste to landfills and net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Three Zeros includes everything from individual behaviors to world-changing research and collaborations.
Each “zero” of the Three Zeros goals will have a substantial impact in reducing the University’s environmental footprint, improving the campus as well as making the Chapel Hill community more resilient, but it cannot be accomplished without students, faculty and staff working together.
“Accomplishing the Three Zeros goals will take work from many different partners on campus and we have been fortunate to forge many strong relationships already,” said Brad Ives, associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises and chief sustainability officer. “Working with the Institute for the Environment will expand our mission by engaging faculty and we look forward to the expertise the department can bring to the Initiative.”
Three Zeros Day
This fall the annual Three Zeros Day celebration highlighted all of the past year’s accomplishments in waste, water and greenhouse gas reduction at Carolina, while looking ahead to projects that will reduce the campus’s environmental footprint over the next several years. At a reception held at the new Carolina Performing Arts CURRENT ArtSpace in Carolina Square, Chancellor Folt recognized the significance of supporting environmental efforts.
“I think it is important that we realize that it is our role to do more than to take care of ourselves, but to think about what we’re passing on to the future,” said Folt.
Innovative Projects and Partnerships
During the reception Ives announced a Solar and Storage project on campus, to begin construction in early 2019, which will offset some of the University’s energy purchases and reduce the University’s total greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the Solar and Storage site, Three Zeros will combat pollinator decline by providing a pollinator garden supported by Burt’s Bees and the North Carolina Botanical Garden, with bees provided by the Carolina Beekeepers Club at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Ives also explained that the Cogeneration facility on campus will undergo construction in order to allow the burners to burn more natural gas. By fall 2019 the University anticipates the new burners being online with the ability to burn 50 percent natural gas, which will lower overall greenhouse gas emissions on campus by approximately 5 percent.
Carolina is working with corporate partners to accomplish the more complex aspects of the Three Zeros goals. In order to support the zero waste goal, a North Carolina partner, Unifi, who produces yarns made from recycled PET bottles for companies like Nike, Patagonia and The North Face, has agreed to fund a waste audit of the campus to determine where waste reduction efforts should be directed.
“With continued focus on important sustainability issues and a commitment to the Three Zeros goals, UNC-Chapel Hill will remain positioned as a leader in environmental efforts well into the future,” said Ives. “This Initiative will take all of us working together to be mindful of our impact and change our behavior, but the goals are within our reach.”
More information about the Three Zeros Initiative can be found at: https://threezeros.unc.edu/