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UNC continues success in sustainability

Every time UNC students flush a toilet in the Genome Sciences Building, they’re using water that fell on its roof.

And innovative water practices like these are only one aspect of UNC’s sustainability initiative.

The UNC campus was recently ranked eighth in the world for sustainability programs by Universitas Indonesia in the annual Greenmetric report for the second year in a row.

The Greenmetric report ranks universities on six categories: setting and infrastructure, energy and climate change, waste, water, transportation and education.

Cindy Shea, director of UNC’s Sustainability Office, said one area UNC is well recognized for is innovative water practices. Shea also said that the University’s reclaim water system saves 175 million gallons of potable water annually.

“The water that falls on the roof of the Genome Building is held underground and is used for flushing toilets in Kenan Stadium and Genome Building,” said Shea.

Shea said the pan-campus water theme, “Water in Our World,” which started last academic year has been extended into the 2014-15 academic year due to its success. UNC has reduced water consumption by 60 percent since 2000, Shea said.

Jaye Cable, chairwoman of the curriculum for the environment and ecology, said the greatest success of the UNC sustainability movement has been bringing together groups of people who haven’t ordinarily talked — the arts with the sciences with the humanities.

“Everyone can think about the environment and see connections to their daily life, research and classes they take,” said Cable.

UNC was also ranked eighth by Greenmetric last year. But, Shea said more universities were competing for the Greenmetric this year, so maintaining the ranking shows improvement.

One area that UNC did not rank as high on was sustainability education.

“Some schools require all students to be exposed to sustainability,” Shea said.

Classes in sustainability are not currently a requirement for UNC, but Shea said they are working on expanding sustainability class options for students.

Cable currently teaches a hydrology class where students discuss sustainability on coastal wetlands. She also teaches a class on environmental problems, in which students collect data on themselves, such as how much paper, water and electricity they use. The students then analyze and extrapolate the data.

UNC’s also ranked eighth in the Net Impact Campus’ “Small Steps, Big Challenge” competition in November.

The environmental fraternity, Epilson Eta, took part in this competition by logging its daily activities, such as eating vegetarian and using reusable water bottles, said the fraternity President Wilton Burns .

“At Alpine Bagel they will give you a paper bag with a bagel,” said Burns.

“Then a student will take the bagel out of the bag and immediately throw away the bag.”

Burns believes overconsumption is currently the University’s biggest problem in terms of environmental issues.

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