Supporting the Carolina community in developing creative, efficient, and effective solutions to social, economic, and environmental challenges
Today’s great global challenges — from climate change to extreme poverty to universal health care and education — will require new tools, new approaches, and new ways of thinking. In the past decade, the University has focused on training students to tackle problems by fostering an ecosystem that supports creative, entrepreneurial thinking. This emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) has won acknowledgment from the Deshpande Foundation, the Global Venture Capital Investment Competition, and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.
Early in the development of the Sustainability Plan, it became clear that this force — the talent, intellect, and creativity of Carolina’s entrepreneurial community — could play a major role in advancing sustainability both on campus and beyond. The aim is to embed sustainability — along with innovation — into the culture of campus operations, administration, and a broader set of curricula. Explicitly featuring sustainability in existing entrepreneurship programs will also help to focus innovative thinking toward achieving sustainability goals.
The University actively supports students, faculty, and staff in pursuing new products, concepts, and business opportunities. From the CUBE at the Campus Y to Launching the Venture to the popular Minor in Entrepreneurship, the University has demonstrated the positive results of relationship-building with donors and alumni to support the pursuit of new ideas. In keeping with the spirit of a living lab for sustainability, we envision the future of innovation and entrepreneurship to include UNC-Chapel Hill itself as an incubator for new products and processes that will engage all corners of the University, from liberal arts to medicine, and from Facilities to Student Affairs.
While working to embrace and cultivate innovative ideas in more of our classes and business practices, we will also seek to adopt a new emphasis on sustainability in our I&E courses, initiatives, and incubators and will provide more mentorship, financial support, and academic resources for student, staff, and faculty innovators who seek to tackle sustainability challenges.
Strengthening “service” as a pillar of a great public university by engaging all of Carolina’s communities, expanding access, and building partnerships to support communities in the Triangle, the state, and potentially beyond.
From the University’s mission statement — serving North Carolina, the United States, and the world — to its track record in providing high quality, affordable education accessible to students from all corners of North Carolina and beyond, community is a core value for UNC-Chapel Hill. Carolina works hard to remain accessible to all populations. Nearly 20% of undergraduates are first generation students. Now in its eleventh year, the Carolina Covenant program has enabled more than 2,500 high performing, low-income students to graduate debt-free.
A sustainable future, especially for a public university, includes both environmental and social responsibility. To truly embed sustainability in our campus culture and establish a living laboratory for sustainability requires empowering everybody to make informed decisions about best practices both as individuals and as members of University classes, labs, offices, and workplaces. Employing the most environmentally benign energy sources, reducing social barriers, and providing living wages for employees and contractors are all part of the mission. Serving North Carolina means providing superior educational opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for all members of the state. Last year alone, UNC-Chapel Hill students provided 1.7 million hours of service to the residents of our state.
Empowering the Carolina community to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to ensure the long-term availability of clean air, water, and energy resources by creating a water-neutral, carbon-neutral campus
In 2015, Chancellor Folt announced her intention to expand the University’s climate commitments and move towards a “triple zero” campus with the aim of achieving water, waste, and greenhouse gas neutrality. Achieving neutrality in any of these categories requires long-term commitment and effort.
This Plan, and particularly this chapter, provides a framework to guide both individuals and decision-makers in taking meaningful steps to move the University in the direction of those triple zero goals.
A variety of organizations both on and off campus have already engaged large portions of the campus community in thinking about the opportunities and challenges associated with environmental degradation and resource consumption at Carolina and across the globe. These entities include many of the University’s professional schools as well as interdisciplinary initiatives and institutes addressing specific facets of the environment, from the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and the Institute for the Environment to the Green Labs Committee and the Environmental Finance Center. Achieving greater successes will require galvanizing all members of our community and leveraging our specialized expertise.
Carolina’s leaders recognize that climate change is arguably the greatest global challenge of our time; and Tar Heels don’t just want to learn about it — they want to fix it. It will be critical to expand our dialogue about this issue to include all aspects of campus life, from football games to dining halls to homework, and from orientation to alumni reunions. By making these conversations and, more importantly, this type of systems thinking part of our everyday lives at Carolina, we will facilitate the University’s movement towards our “net zero goals” and empower our students, staff, faculty, and administrators to convey the importance of environmental and resource issues to other audiences.
Providing environments, programs, policies, and services that enhance the social, mental, and physical well-being of the University community, the surrounding community, and vulnerable populations in North Carolina and beyond
Health and wellness are already spotlighted at Carolina through the inaugural pan-campus themes: “Water in Our World,” 2012-2015, and “Food for All,” 2015-2017. Opportunities to improve our personal health — and contribute to the wellness of our communities — present themselves every day, to every member of our campus. Carolina’s programs in nutrition, health behavior, and health policy and management are among the most competitive in the country.
From the foods we eat to the ways we move between our homes, offices, and classrooms, these decisions have important outcomes for our own well-being, and for public health more broadly.
Changing policies, practices, infrastructure, and individual attitudes to demonstrate a more responsible, less impactful use of resources, from source to disposal
The University has already taken significant strides towards becoming a Zero Waste campus. Led by the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling (OWRR), the campus diverted 45% of its discards from landfills in 2015. Dining hall food waste that was composted, rather than trashed, represented more than 400 metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. These efforts, along with very successful programs to address waste from student move in/ out, athletic events, and construction and demolition, have put Carolina at the leading edge of university-scale waste reduction efforts.
Our goal is to minimize the amount of waste produced on campus and to divert waste from the landfill. Considerable educational resources and significantly improved physical infrastructure will be needed to achieve the desired reductions.
Equally important will be efforts to minimize our materials consumption by keeping unneeded products, products with a short useful life, and excess packaging from reaching our campus. Moving forward, we will work with our business partners to discuss how their decisions impact the University and its sustainability goals. We will work to make sustainable options the default purchasing choices and expand our attention to the full life cycle implications of selected products. We will increase our requirements for recycled-content materials from printer paper to construction materials and will select products that result in healthy work spaces. The University will go beyond “reduce, reuse, recycle,” looking both at downstream impacts and at opportunities up the supply chain to minimize raw materials and embodied energy.
Enabling the University to push boundaries by adopting financial and policy approaches that help to achieve sustainability goals and leverage University resources and partner support
Carolina has already achieved a number of sustainability goals. Additional support from the University’s leaders and administrators will be necessary in order to take those efforts from good to truly great. The University is committed to identifying new organizational strategies, funding mechanisms, and communications efforts that will support the implementation of new sustainability initiatives across scales and focus areas. Creating a new framework to advance the Sustainability Plan can provide the foundation to support future sustainability goals and initiatives that require innovative strategies to further the University’s ambitions.
Moving forward, the University will need to evolve and embrace new ways of working. Partnerships with the private sector, decision-making that encompasses both the academy and the administration, and community-facing initiatives that address challenges outside our walls will all help to bolster Carolina’s positive impact on the world around us. These new approaches will help leverage our resources for the greatest good. They will build upon our reputation as a best-value university by maximizing efficiencies and modeling the most cost-effective ways of doing business that respect the triple bottom line of environmental quality, economic vitality, and societal well-being.