Awareness and support for sustainability-related programs and practices have increased dramatically over the past few years. Much of this increase is the result of targeted outreach campaigns by groups across the University.
The sustainability initiative on campus brings together students, faculty, and staff to work collaboratively across departmental lines. In 2009, UNC debuted the new “Carolina Green” logo and campaign to denote these University-wide, interdepartmental efforts. Carolina Green information is distributed to new students at orientation sessions, via bookmarks at Student Stores, recycled magnets during the Week of Welcome, and BPA-free reusable water bottles at select events. In 2011, the Sustainability Office launched the “Carolina Green Pledge,” an online pledge that allows students, staff, and faculty to affirm their commitment to sustainability and promise to act in environmentally responsible ways. During its inaugural year, the “Carolina Green pledge” was completed by more than 2,500 students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Pledge categories include energy and water conservation, transportation and purchasing behaviors, waste management and investment practices, and community involvement.
The Carolina Green website provides a comprehensive directory of “green” programs at UNC. Reference guides, such as the Green Events Guide, help individuals and departments implement more sustainable practices. Select campus activities are eligible to implement and advertise Green Event practices.
Carolina Green has also partnered with the 54 organizations of Carolina’s Greek community, forming the Greek Sustainability Council. Current projects include purchasing local and organic food and contributing waste oil to biodiesel production.
Residential Green Games
Green Games is an environmental competition among residence halls organized by students and the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling. Halls are divided into teams based on housing communities. The purpose is to reduce the amount of trash generated while increasing recycling and promoting student awareness with regards to campus sustainability.
Housing communities receive points for each percentage point of reduction in their energy and water usage. They receive points for each percentage point increase in recycling and for battery recycling. Communities also receive points when students from their community participate in Green Games recognized events. There are also team contests such as a recycled art contest, t-shirt or bumper sticker contest, and a bulletin board contest. Green Games aims to instill both a short- and long-term interest in environmental issues among the 9,000 residential students at UNC. The 2013-2014 Green Games saw a 40% increase in participation from the 2012-2013 Green Games.
For a comprehensive energy management program to be successful, the people who work, study, or live in the building must be active participants. Regularly turning off the lights in unoccupied or daylit spaces, lowering the blinds to keep out the summer sun and heat, closing the sash on laboratory fume hoods that are not in use, and shutting down computers at the end of the day could save significant amounts of energy.
Visual cues, training, and feedback on energy consumption can help to influence behavior. A number of programs exist to create awareness for responsible consumption.
- “Please Turn Off the Light” stickers are affixed to light switches across campus to encourage the last person out of a room to darken it. These are provided free to departments and building managers from the UNC Sustainability Office.
- Lab researchers in the four buildings with variable air volume fume hoods are taught that the sash (or door) should be closed when nobody is using it. Just one fume hood can use as much energy in a year as five households. The Caudill Physical Sciences Building alone contains 108 fume hoods. This effort includes signage and education campaigns, and is led by the Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee.
- The Energy Management Program hosts the University’s “Save Energy” website, which documents current campus practices and savings, as well as offers energy saving tips for the campus community.
- The Building Dashboard program, created by Energy Services, provides better transparency of energy consumption for building occupants. This is an important tool that allows students and staff to monitor and reduce their energy usage in real-time.
To stimulate water conservation behaviors during the 2007 drought, the Chancellor at N.C. State University challenged the Chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill to see which university could save the most water between the football game in November and the basketball game in February. Lots of publicity and high levels of engagement resulted in Carolina students trimming their daily water use by 13 gallons each, or 38 percent.
Current efforts at behavior change include “Every Drop Counts – Conserve!” stickers provided free to departments and building managers by the Sustainability Office, and incorporation of water usage data into the building dashboard program developed by Energy Services.
Widespread involvement is key for the success of campus recycling and waste reduction programs. Beyond offering tips and news online, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling works with numerous groups and departments to develop and promote recycling programs using campus signage, special events, educational workshops, and promotional contests. One example of a recycling awareness program is Ramses Recycles, a program focused on encouraging recycling at sports venues on campus.
The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, along with the Environmental Affairs Committee, began the Game Day Challenge in 2011. The Game Day Challenge is a friendly competition between colleges and universities to see which institution can reduce and recycle the most waste from a single home football game. In 2012, EAC organized volunteers for the first “compost sweep” to pick up compostable items from the stands during post-game clean up. In 2013, in addition to Game Day Challenge, UNC also participated in the first RecycleMania Basketball Game Day Challenge. Game Day Challenge has helped to raise awareness of recycling options at sports venues such as the Dean Dome and Kenan Stadium.
Launched in 2007, the stormwater management website hosted by the Environment, Health and Safety Department makes Carolina’s practices and accomplishments accessible to a wider audience. This website communicates the importance of stormwater management, clarifies the roles of different departments, and provides resources for planners, project managers, and construction and maintenance staff. A coordinated stormwater management training program has reached more than 950 staff members. The training program has been highly successful, with over 65% of illicit discharge reports coming from trainees.