UNC Asheville named one of three greenest campuses in the Southeast
Chancellor Ponder and Board of Trustee members
learn about geothermal heating from James Wise
at the Sam Millar Building
From the dining hall to the classroom to the Greenway, no matter where you look at UNC Asheville, sustainable efforts are paying off for the planet.
And people are beginning to notice. The most recent of many accolades for UNC Asheville’s sustainability efforts comes from Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, which named the university one of the top green colleges in the Southeast this month.
In a survey of more than 45 colleges and universities, UNC Asheville and nearby Warren Wilson College tied for first place as the greenest small college in a five-state region. Emory University in Atlanta was named the greenest large university by the magazine editors.
“We examined all of the region’s colleges and universities to determine which schools are not just teaching about a better world but are also actually doing something about it,” the magazine editors said in introducing its “Cool Schools: Honor Roll of the Region’s Greenest Colleges and Universities” ranking in March.
What’s so green at UNC Asheville? A quick tour of campus can give you a good sense how students, staff and faculty are making sustainability a part of their lives. No wonder the State Energy Office recently recognized UNC Asheville for its leadership in energy conservation initiatives.
Students plant trees around the Zeis Science &
Multimedia Building on Earth Day.
UNC Asheville has the lowest energy consumption (based on BTU’s per square foot) among all 16 campuses in the University of North Carolina system. This is not by accident. The university’s long-term commitment to energy conservation has led to some very innovative practices, including geothermal energy.
Many of UNC Asheville newest buildings are heated and cooled using the earth’s underground constant 58-degree temperature combined with 600-feet-deep wells. This technology significantly reduces ongoing energy costs.
The New Hall classroom building has not only a geothermal system but also a “green” roof, as well as extensive daylighting. The result? New Hall uses just 20 percent of the energy used in a nearby classroom building constructed in 1966.
The Sam Millar Facilities Management Complex also uses a geothermal system, solar panels for hot water and a 10,000-gallon rainwater catchment system that supplies water for toilets, irrigation and the washing of campus vehicles.
And buildings tell only part of the story.
Since 1991, UNC Asheville staff have planted almost 1,000 trees on campus and they continue to work to remove invasive, non-native species on campus, replacing the non-natives with plants that are common to our mountain climate. Students, faculty and staff are active participants in tree planting and hiking trail maintenance during the annual spring Greenfest.
Thanks to their work, the campus has been a designated a Treasured Tree Preserve by Quality Forward (now Greenworks), an Asheville environmental organization. UNC Asheville has also been recognized as a “Leader in Land and Ground Management” through the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program.
The university and the City of Asheville together created the Glenn’s Creek Greenway for walking and biking along the campus boundary. Improvements have included tree plantings, restoration of riparian buffers along creeks and developing storm-water wetlands that aid in cleaning up runoff.
The campus community also can take advantage of the growing list of alternative transportation options ranging from the campus shuttle service to free bicycle rentals, tune-ups and repairs. Many gasoline-burning vehicles have been replaced with those that run on biodiesel and electricity, reducing campus petroleum consumption by 46 percent since 2005. And students, faculty and staff can use city buses for free, thanks to the university’s partnership with the City’s Passport program.
In the Dining Hall, you can see, and taste, sustainability. Organic, Fair Trade and locally produced food are a regular part of the meals served. The Dining Hall went “trayless” in 2009, saving more than 71,000 gallons of water per year and significantly reducing wasted food.
About 1,600 reusable, recyclable “eco-clamshell” containers are offered in the Dining Hall for to-go meals, saving some 10,000 pounds of paper take-out boxes from the landfill per year.
Students are actively engaged in campus sustainability efforts across the campus. Three years ago, students requested a Green Campus Initiative Fee and formed a Student Environmental Center. The center has used green fee funds to buy an electric GEM Car for University Police, install dual flush toilet valves in several campus buildings, and add occupancy sensors to light fixtures in Highsmith University Union. Other student-led activities include a “Free” store, expanded recycling efforts and a new campus vegetable garden for the Dining Hall.