UNC Asheville was ranked as the top university in the nation in the food organics category in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2021 Campus Race to Zero Waste Competition among medium-sized campuses. The award was given based on UNC Asheville’s food donation and composting programs, which diverts uneaten food and food waste from the landfill. UNC Asheville was also the top ranked school in North Carolina for diverting waste from the landfill through reduction and recycling strategies, and for collecting the largest combined amount of paper, cardboard and bottles and cans on a per person basis. More than 200 college campuses in 43 states competed in Campus Race to Zero Waste, the nation’s premier waste reduction and recycling competition among colleges and universities.
During the eight-week competition, UNC Asheville collected 30,136 lbs. of compost. The University also works in partnership with Food Connection, a local organization that picks up leftover food from campus—an average of 170 lbs. a week during the school year—and distributes it to organization that feed underserved populations. Other programs by UNC Asheville Dining Services, operated by Chartwells, such as small plates, trayless dining, reusable to-go containers, repurposing food scraps into other dishes like stocks and smoothies, and awareness campaigns also contribute to the University’s food waste reduction and diversion.
“A big part of UNC Asheville’s success this year is due to the fact that we didn’t give up on sustainability during COVID,” said Jackie Hampstead, UNC Asheville’s environmental specialist. “Our team worked hard to find innovative waste reduction solutions to adapt to shifting health and safety guidelines.”
This award is one of many sustainability recognitions UNC Asheville has recently received, and it comes on the heels of UNC Asheville signing the Carbon Commitment. UNC Asheville’s newest residence halls, The Woods, are certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council. UNC Asheville was again a featured university in Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges.” The guide considers environmentally friendly practices such as the school’s use of renewable energy, its recycling and conservation programs, the availability of environmental studies in academic offerings, and career guidance for green jobs. The University also won the 2020 Carolina Recycling Association Annual Recycling Award, and was designated a Tree Campus USA for the second year in a row. Additionally, UNC Asheville has been certified as a Bee Campus USA, a designation that recognizes educational campuses that commit to a set of practices that support pollinators. UNC Asheville was the eighth school in the nation to receive the Bee Campus USA designation, and the first in North Carolina.
Other sustainability-focused programs at UNC Asheville include campus gardens, the Seed Library, stormwater management, the Student Environmental Center, Greenfest, the Farm to Table Dinner on the Quad, and an environmental, social and governance strategy for its endowment investments. UNC Asheville’s Dining Services became the first designated Fair Trade Campus in North Carolina, and has been awarded three starts by the Green Restaurant Association. For more information on these and many other sustainability initiatives at UNC Asheville, read the University’s first Sustainability Annual Report and visit sustainability.unca.edu.