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UNC GPSG to highlight sustainability efforts at first Climate Action Day

Volunteers Working
Edible Campus volunteers sift compost in the Davis library garden on Feb. 28, 2022. Edible Campus UNC tends to an assortment of gardens throughout campus.

The Graduate and Professional Student Government’s first Climate Action Day will be held this Thursday. The event will feature an array of booths from various sustainability organizations in the Pit, followed by two documentary screenings.

Climate Action Day is being organized by GPSG’s Climate Crisis Committee, which was formed in September by newly appointed Director of Environmental Affairs Jimmy Dögerl. 

“If you are interested in getting involved in campus life, and especially in the area of climate action and environmental protection, then this is the best day for you to find out what your options are, find out what's going on, learn more about what the University is doing or not doing,” he said.

The committee has worked with the Undergraduate Student Government to host the day, and several USG members are on the committee.

“There's a lot that we can do at UNC, and I think it's hard to know how exactly to do that. But this committee makes it possible to directly be involved,” graduate student and climate crisis committee member Sydney Rehder said.

The first segment of Climate Action Day will feature a collection of informational tables run by organizations working to bring awareness to the climate crisis. These include on-campus groups such as Edible Campus, Carolina Dining Services and the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling. 

Off-campus organizations such as Sunrise Durham, a youth group dedicated to mitigating climate change, and PORCH, a local hunger relief program, will also participate in the project. Event organizers have also set up a recycling station for batteries, light bulbs and other special waste items.

“There's sustainability relevance in every aspect of life and every aspect of campus life. It's worth having students think about these things and come up with ideas for how to make our campus more sustainable,” Dögerl said.

As the second part of Climate Action Day, two documentaries that address environmental issues will be screened in the Student Union in the evening. The first film, “Pushed Up the Mountain,” produced by UNC communications professor Julia Haslett, will discuss botanical conservationist efforts in China and Scotland. Following the screening, a panel discussion with Haslett will be held. 

The second film, “Into the Weeds,” follows the legal battles ensued from a series of lymphoma diagnoses related to weed killer.

The GPSG Climate Crisis Committee members hope the event will spark student interest in campus organizations helping to fight climate change. 

The committee also organized an Energy Transition Town Hall in January, which discussed reducing UNC’s dependence on environmentally damaging energy sources and transitioning to more renewable energy. Members hope that Climate Action Day will aid in provoking conversations about the University’s climate policy.

“All of us have a responsibility to care for our planet and make sure that wherever we have influence — and in this case, we all have an influence over what the University does — then we should use this influence to change things for the better,” Dögerl said.

He hopes Climate Action Day will pressure the University to take further steps to reduce its carbon footprint. The committee is involved in ongoing efforts to improve UNC’s Climate Action Plan in conjunction with Sustainable Carolina. 

Michael Piehler, UNC chief sustainability officer, acknowledged the University has room for improvement in its sustainability efforts .

“It's well known that we have a cogeneration plant — without which the University and hospital could not run — that is partially powered by coal,” he said. “We've made more progress in the last three years than we did in the ten prior in reducing coal, so there's some positives."

Sustainable Carolina hopes to release updates to the climate action plan soon, but Piehler said that the document is under constant revision and welcomes input from student organizations.

While this is the first event of its kind, organizers hope to make Climate Action Day an annual occurrence.

“I think (climate change) is one of the biggest problems in our generation, and we really need to do something about it. So hopefully this gets people a little bit more excited and more engaged in general with what students at UNC are doing,” Rehder said.

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