Three Zeros is Carolina’s initiative to reduce the campus’ environmental footprint through three overarching sustainability goals: net zero water usage, zero waste to landfills and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
A year after Chancellor Carol L. Folt launched the initiative, the campus celebrated the progress Carolina has made as it works to reach those goals. At the first Three Zeros Day: A Celebration of UNC Sustainability, more than 30 departments and student organizations showed off important sustainability work happening at Carolina and campus officials announced a new partnership and initiatives meant to get Carolina closer to its goals.
“We’re in it for the long term, so whatever we can do today, we expect to see magnified as we go forward,” Folt said. “This isn’t something that just happens on its own. It takes real effort. It takes ideas. It takes commitment.”
During the daylong event, Folt announced a collaboration with Burt’s Bees, the Durham-based earth-friendly, natural health and beauty care company. Burt’s Bees will partner with Carolina on the sustainability issues as a whole and has signed on to be the inaugural sponsor of a new campus bike share program called Tar Heel Bikes. The bike share program by UNC Transportation & Parking will launch in October with 100 bikes.
As part of the partnership, Burt’s Bees and Carolina will also team up for quarterly site visits on campus and at Burt’s Bees. During these visits, students, faculty, staff and Burt’s Bees employees can learn more about the sustainability practices at both locations.
Chancellor Folt also announced that UNC-Chapel Hill is water neutral in that the University uses less water than what falls on the campus annually. As a leader in the field of water neutrality, the next steps for Carolina include conducting research and creating a scale by which Carolina and other organizations can measure their water neutrality, and improving the quality of water leaving the campus as runoff.
Also on Monday, Associate Vice Chancellor of Campus Enterprises and Chief Sustainability Officer Brad Ives announced a solar power and battery storage project that will collect and store excess solar energy during the day so that energy can be used to power campus buildings. This project will be installed on Carolina’s North Campus and is meant to reduce electricity and demand costs on the north campus electricity grid. The project will also serve as an educational tool for students and Energy Services Department staff.
Ives also announced a plan to increase the use of natural gas at the University’s cogeneration system over the next two years. This move would decrease the use of coal at the plant, cutting fossil fuel combustion by about 26,000 metrics tons per year.
Ives said that since 2008, the University has worked to increase natural gas usage at that plant from 2.3 percent to 27.9 percent in 2016. That effort has already led to a reduction in UNC-Chapel Hill’s carbon footprint by about 26,000 metric tons per year.
Ives laid out the process for the next year of sustainability research and planning, and said that at the 2018 Three Zeros Day, he would present a roadmap for achieving the Three Zeros goals.
“We can all have a hand in sustainable practices,” Ives said. “Whether it is using less air conditioning in the summer or irrigating fields with non-potable water, it takes students, faculty, staff and the administration working together to accomplish the Three Zeros goals.”
Learn more about the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative at the Three Zeros website.
Published Sept. 26, 2017
By Olivia James, Campus Enterprises