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The Daily Tar Heel

Campus dorms put focus on green energy


Chris Martin, director of UNC energy management, is presented with a present by Energy Star spokeswoman Maura Beard (not shown). The present was for members of Watt-Busters, a UNC student group. Morrison Residence Hall won a national efficiency contest last October. The residence hall has 172 solar thermal panels that provide hot water for parts of the dorm and is home to the Sustainability Living-Learning Community.

Carolina blue is always the color people associate with UNC. The housing department is one of many campus organizations trying to paint Chapel Hill another color: green.

From sustainability living-learning communities to “Turn off the lights!” stickers, UNC Housing has multiple initiatives in place to increase the environmental consciousness of on-campus living.

Each dorm has recycling bins in every room, and there are also boxes outside buildings and inside lobbies for old tennis shoes and batteries. Showers in the dorms use low-flow shower heads, and all public bathrooms utilize dual flush toilets. When doing laundry, signs encourage students to use cold water. Outdoor lights and sensor switches in the laundry rooms help keep low-traffic areas illuminated.


“We want to protect the environment and we want to be good stewards of the students’ rent dollars,” Lofgren said.

Such environmentally conscious practices led Morrison Residence Hall, which Lofgren calls “our poster child,” to become the first building in the country to win the EPA’s National Building Competition.

Morrison’s 172 solar thermal panels provide hot water for parts of the building, and the Morrison “dashboard” in the lobby allows students to see how much energy each floor is using.

Housing also follows the guidelines from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) when constructing new buildings, including residence halls.

“When we build or renovate a building, our material selection takes environmental impact into consideration,” Lofgren said.

In the future, the RESPC is considering loaning money to housing to invest into energy efficient upgrades, said Cindy Shea, director of the sustainability office. Housing would pay back the RESPC up to 90 percent of the loan over time. This would allow Housing to save money while lowering energy usage. The RESPC would be able to invest more money in green practices as a result.

Residence halls also encourage their students to be environmentally conscious through the “Residential Green Games.”

Twelve communities are currently participating in the games. They gain points in a variety of ways, said Green Games coordinator Sara Rafalson. This includes in-community programs such as screenings of movies or discussions, service projects, trips to areas of environmental interest, drives or pledges or posting pictures on the UNC Green Games Facebook page.

“They try to be greener than the dorm next door, and instill values of environmentalism,” Rafalson said. The participation level in green games is the highest it has ever been.

“This has the potential to make sustainability and environmentalism part of the average student culture,” Rafalson said.

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