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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC celebrates sustainability, and bike-powered blenders, at this year's Three Zeroes Day

Three Zeros Initiative trash
The UNC Three Zeros Initiative held an event in the Pit on Monday Aril 8, 2019, dumping out and sorting trahsbags to raise awareness about what is recylable & compostable.

A bike that powers a blender for vegan smoothies, a trash sorting game and a scoop of local Maple View ice cream are all attractions at this year’s Three Zeros Day, which will be held in the Pit on Monday, October 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Three Zeros Environmental Initiative is the University’s commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, net zero water usage and zero waste to landfills. Launched in fall 2016 by former Chancellor Carol Folt, the initiative has celebrated its progress with Three Zeros Day every year since its creation.

The Chief Sustainability Officer for UNC, Brad Ives, was in charge of the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative  until he left his position this August. At this point, it is unclear if the University will appoint a new chief sustainability officer in his place. 

Three Zeros has not yet released a formal plan to reach their sustainability goals and does not plan to share one on Monday, however, all ongoing projects are listed on their website.

The Three Zeros Environmental Initiative came after the Board of Trustees decided that UNC would focus on greenhouse gas neutrality rather than being coal-free by 2020, which was a former sustainability initiative. 

At Three Zeros Day, students will have the chance to learn more about sustainability from Three Zeros employees, and will have the chance to submit ideas for new sustainability projects on campus.

“We need every single Tar Heels’ help to  accomplish these goals,” Amy Armbruster, research and outreach manager for Three Zeros, said. “Throughout the course of the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative, what Three Zeros Day has really meant is that we can hear from our students, faculty and staff about their great ideas to push the initiative forward.”

Viktor Agabekov, project coordinator for UNC Energy Services, said the initiative has managed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by about 19 percent since 2007, reduce potable water intensity by at least 63 percent and decrease per capita waste sent to landfills by 27 percent from 2001 to 2007.  

He also said the University was recently ranked first in the U.S. for sustainability according to the Times Higher Education impact ranking program. 

Brooke Bauman, co-chairperson of the Student Environmental Action Coalition and a former Daily Tar Heel writer, said her organization worked with Three Zeros last year on a waste awareness project.

“They collected trash from Davis Library and then they basically dumped all the trash into the Pit and had volunteers sorting through the trash to show what could've been composted, what could've been recycled and what waste shouldn't have been created in the first place,” Bauman said. “It was meant to be a visually striking demonstration for students so they could understand their own habits and how they could reduce their waste.”

Bauman said that events like that, as well as Three Zeros Day, are important because they educate students about what they can do to support environmental issues.

“I would like to see all students being engaged in environmental issues because environmental issues affect us all,” Bauman said. “No matter what career you want to have, you can figure out a way to plug environmental issues into your career path.”

Armbruster said that while the University is working to make structural sustainable changes, individual action is also very important.

“There’s things everyone can do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions like eating less red meat, taking the bus instead of driving by themselves in a car, turning the lights off when they leave the room,” she said. “These little actions add up.”

Armbruster said students, faculty and staff are encouraged to submit new sustainability ideas to Three Zeros at any time using the portal on their website. 

While rain is expected this Monday, Armbruster said the event will be held rain or shine, and can be moved to the Student Union in the event of rain.

“By being sustainable, the University is showing our students what environmental leadership looks like today,” Agabekov said. “By furthering sustainability, the University is giving our students the wisdom to make sustainable choices tomorrow.”

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