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'Green in Kenan': Sustainable Carolina recognized at Champion Sustainability Game

UNC senior Daiana Mendoza and UNC senior Courtney Daniels pose with a “Green in Kenan” shirt before the UNC football game against Syracuse University in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.

Although the North Carolina football team played the Syracuse Orange on Saturday, Kenan Stadium was green all around. Before kickoff, Sustainable Carolina — a hub housed within UNC Institute for the Environment — handed out t-shirts and buttons that read “Green in Kenan” in Tar Heel Town at Polk Place.

The “Champion Sustainability Game,” sponsored by Sustainable Carolina and the clothing brand Champion, celebrated the University’s accomplishments in sustainability. Most recently, the organization's Champion Sustainability Fund helped Kenan Stadium and Carmichael Arena implement new LED lights, which increase energy efficiency and reduce operations costs.

Melanie Elliott, the sustainability analyst for Sustainable Carolina, said the fund launched in 2021 when Champion and Hanesbrands donated $1 million to the University for a green revolving fund — meaning that any money made from energy savings would be funneled back into the program for future sustainability initiatives.

"We are thrilled to partner with Sustainable Carolina to showcase and educate fans and visitors about sustainability while cheering on Carolina Football,'' UNC Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Steinbacher said in the release announcing the Champion Sustainability Game. "When it comes to sustainability, it's key that everyone does their part." 

On top of celebrating its recent accomplishments, the event promoted Sustainable Carolina’s future goals, including its Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce the University's greenhouse gas emissions.

Abigail Brewer, a communications and engagement specialist for Sustainable Carolina, noted that the group is working toward carbon neutrality on campus by 2040, and their goal was to get the word out on their climate action plan, water plan and sustainability report during the event. Sustainable Carolina is actively encouraging UNC community members to “submit project ideas focused on energy efficiency to the advisory group.”

“We aren’t in operations, we're not the engineers, we're not the folks implementing the projects,” Elliott said. “We are here to support those people that are doing that, whether it is through funding, promotion or awareness or through consulting.”

The team’s initiatives have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent since 2007 and declined water use intensity by 67 percent since 2002. Water conservation efforts saved 350 million gallons in 2021 alone — a testament to the University's dedication to sustainability.

“After the climate action plan, we also released a water action plan that helps us be better water stewards on campus,” Elliott said. “We are reaching out into campus laboratories to help them be more sustainable. We have a green office plan that helps offices be more sustainable.”

Langley Smith, a program specialist for Sustainable Carolina, said there are internship opportunities for students looking to get involved with the organization. Smith oversees the “STar Heels” — short for sustainable Tar Heels — which works to raise awareness for campus sustainability initiatives. She also collaborates with EcoStudio, an initiative by the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program that partners undergraduate students with faculty and graduate student advisors for environmentally-focused research, projects and internships.

October is Campus Sustainability Month, and Sustainable Carolina’s next event is a scavenger hunt from Oct. 23 to Oct. 27. The first 100 people to complete the challenge will receive a bag filled with prizes from Sustainable Carolina, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Carolina Dining Services and Transportation and Parking.


@dthsports |

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