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Chapel Hill, Carrboro communities prioritize environmental sustainability

coker 06222023-3.jpg

A small stream runs through Coker Arboretum on June 22, 2023.

On April 22, the Town of Carrboro hosted an Earth Day celebration to spread awareness about the Town's climate action initiatives. Similarly, the Town of Chapel Hill commissioned a special Earth Day sculpture at the 140 W. Franklin St. Plaza — Rubbish the Raccoon.

Mitigating climate change has long been a priority for Chapel Hill and Carrboro community members. Leaders from both towns have made commitments to environmental sustainability and cleaner energy usage.

Chapel Hill Town Council

  • In 2006, the Chapel Hill Town Council committed to a 60 percent total reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
  • In 2017, the Town passed a resolution to meet the United Nations' Paris Agreement, meaning a 26-28 percent total carbon reduction from 2005 levels by 2025. 
    • Following former President Donald Trump's 2017 withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, former Mayor Pam Hemminger — as well as 85 other mayors across the country — committed to upholding the goals set for the United States set by the agreement. 
  • According to Chapel Hill’s most recent carbon inventory in 2021, the Town has reduced operational carbon emissions by 11 percent from 2005. 
  • John Richardson, Chapel Hill’s community sustainability officer, said in an email that energy used in buildings and vehicles is responsible for 96 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Chapel Hill. 

Carrboro Town Council

  • According to Carrboro's Community Climate Action Plan, the Town intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030.
  • Carrboro’s 2019 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory saw a 31 percent decrease in municipal natural gas emissions from 2012.
  • Laura Janway, Carrboro’s environmental sustainability coordinator said that the Carrboro fleet’s usage of gasoline and diesel fuel has increased by about 3 percent since the Orange County landfill closed in 2013.
    • Janway said that while Carrboro has seen some increases in natural gas usage and vehicle miles traveled, the Town’s solid waste production and electricity usage have decreased significantly. 
  • Janway said that between 2012 and 2019, the community's electricity usage decreased by 21 percent.
  • From 2012 to 2022, the Town’s building and lighting electricity usage decreased by 42 percent.
  • Carrboro also installed solar panels on two town buildings, Fire Station 1 and the Public Works Department.
    • Janway said that while the solar panels don’t accommodate for all of the energy needed to run those buildings, but they significantly offset the need for other sources of energy.

The Community

Both Chapel Hill’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board and Carrboro’s Environmental Advisory Board provide opportunities for community members to become involved in their town’s sustainability work. 

In 2023, Carrboro began the Green Neighborhoods Grant Program, which provides up to $2,500 to Carrboro residents to pursue projects for their community that align with the Town’s Climate Action Plan, Janway said. 

Carrboro Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said their neighborhood was involved in one of the grant programs, which focused on composting, and 62 percent of residents participated in the program. 

They said that through the composting efforts, their neighborhood avoided the production of 828 pounds of methane, which is equivalent to 20,691 pounds of carbon dioxide. 

“The most exciting thing is that folks want to continue with this and more people want to join,” Haven-O’Donnell said. 

Richardson said Chapel Hill residents can also participate in local environmental sustainability programs like Creek Week and Leave Your Leaves to assist in the Town’s efforts to make Chapel Hill more sustainable. 

“A big part of our goal, too, is to help educate the community on how they can change behaviors and reduce emissions and help our ecosystem be more resilient,” Janway said. 

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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