UNC-Chapel Hill Earns Top Sustainability Ratings

Carolina recognized nationally and internationally for its work in promoting and maintaining sustainable practices.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been nationally and internationally recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System and the University of Indonesia’s Green Metric for its work in promoting and maintaining sustainable practices.

AASHE STARS is a nationally recognized, comprehensive campus sustainability rating system that enables institutions to measure their progress and learn from others. UNC-Chapel Hill received a gold rating from AASHE, maintaining the same level of recognition as the previous report, but earning more points on a more rigorous application.

Every three years UNC-Chapel Hill submits a report to AASHE that includes information about course offerings and learning outcomes, research, business practices, environmental performance and planning. This is the second time UNC-Chapel Hill has received a gold STARS rating. Only three campuses in the country have attained the higher, platinum STARS rating.

The University of Indonesia Green Metric is a ranking of international universities based on their performance combating global climate change, reducing energy and water use, recycling waste and adopting green transportation strategies. Of the participating universities, UNC-Chapel Hill ranked 13thinternationally and third in North America, behind the University of California, Davis and the University of Connecticut.

“Reporting to these organizations requires months of hard work and a concerted, university-wide effort that engages hundreds of staff, faculty and students,” said Cindy Shea, director of sustainability. “We are grateful to the campus community for their help in compiling information from academics, operations, purchasing and engagement.”

According to the AASHE STARS rating, UNC-Chapel Hill excelled in the areas of innovation, public engagement and research. Eighty-one percent of research-producing departments at UNC-Chapel Hill are engaged in sustainability research, and the University continuously develops new ways to promote sustainability, including purchasing athletic uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles.

“While we are pleased with our progress so far in sustainable efforts at UNC, we do not intend to stop here,” said Brad Ives, chief sustainability officer and associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises. “We are now analyzing our performance to-date and understanding where we can improve to move the campus forward.”

One of the most prominent ways UNC-Chapel Hill is improving is through the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative. The Three Zeros Initiative moves the campus toward water neutrality, zero waste and greenhouse gas neutrality. Launched in 2016, and part of Chancellor Carol L. Folt’s Blueprint for Next, Three Zeros aims to reduce coal use at the University’s cogeneration facility, reduce water use while improving the quality of water exiting campus, and reducing waste. These, along with the other projects within the initiative, will help UNC-Chapel Hill improve its score in all rating systems.

Last fall UNC-Chapel Hill was also recognized for its work in sustainable initiatives by the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” ranking. In a year, the University moved 11 places from 39th to 28th in the ranking, primarily due to its innovative implementation of projects, co-curricular activities and the planning involved in the Three Zeros Initiative.

“Our commitment to improving sustainability across campus will require changes in individual behaviors, like biking around campus, as well as changes at the institutional level,” said Ives. “UNC is becoming known across the country as a leader in sustainability and we have so many exciting projects for 2018 that will propel us forward.”