UNC Asheville Named “Green University of the Year” by WNC Sierra Club

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From left, Mark Threlkeld, at large member of The Sierra Club Wenoca Chapter; and from UNC Asheville, Shannon Earle, chief of staff; Sonia Marcus, director of sustainability; and John Pierce, vice chancellor for administration and finance

UNC Asheville has been named the “Green University of the Year” by the Wenoca Chapter of the Western North Carolina Sierra Club. The award was presented at the Dec. 7, 2016 meeting.

The award recognizes community organizations and volunteers who have made a difference to preserving the environment and creating a better quality of life for all. In announcing the award, the Wenoca Chapter cited UNC Asheville’s significant sustainability initiatives and applauded the breadth of the university’s efforts, particularly those catalyzed by the Student Environmental Center and the Office of Sustainability, which work to connect people and programs and to generate ideas to further UNC Asheville’s record of environmental sustainability.

“Sustainability is one of our core values at UNC Asheville, essential to our mission as North Carolina’s designated public liberal arts university and a founding principle of our new strategic plan, and we are honored to receive this award in an area with many local champions,” said UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant. “It’s these alliances and activities that strengthen our communities and contribute to health and resiliency of our natural environment and those who call it home. As we plan ahead for the future, we continue our commitment to create and promote a culture of sustainability.” 

UNC Asheville Bee HotelIn 2016, UNC Asheville received certification as a Bee Campus, becoming the eighth institution to earn the honor. The certification stems from the university’s efforts to plant and sustain several pollinator gardens, many of which are grant-funded. The cross-pollination extends into the curriculum as more courses include pollinators in their syllabi, and the Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers a new certificate in Cultural and Environmental Sustainability.

The university also collaborated with Asheville Design Center in fall 2016 to build the Bee Hotel, a home for solitary bees near a campus pollinator garden. Constructed of steel and natural materials reclaimed from campus, the functional design can be seen from University Heights.

Building construction on campus has a green element too, with recent renovations to Rhoades Hall earning LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This certification is the first for the campus and has set the standard for future projects, as the Student Government Association passed a resolution setting LEED® Gold as the minimum standard for all new construction and major renovations. UNC Asheville students have also expressed support for clean energy endowment investments, including establishing an Environmental Social Governance Fund.

UNC Asheville's second annual Farm-to-Table Dinner on the Quad took place on Sept. 14, 2016.Annual events also celebrate UNC Asheville’s commitment to sustainability, with the biannual Greenfest encouraging campus service projects and bringing nationally known speakers to campus. The university hosted the second annual Farm-to-Table Dinner on the Quad in September 2016, bringing together 300 participants for an evening meal, with a menu from community partners and campus gardens. The event also featured Cherokee culture, dance, music, language and heritage seeds.

“It’s important to understand our work as a collective effort, going beyond campus operations and the Student Environmental Center, to reach and collaborate with many community partners,” said UNC Asheville Director of Sustainability Sonia Marcus. “We are as proud of the students doing research as McCullough Fellows as we are of the campus-wide LED retrofit. Thanks to all who have participated in our projects throughout the past year.”

Marcus also serves as the chair of Asheville’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy & Environment, and is UNC Asheville’s representative on the regional Energy Innovation Task Force, convened by the City of Asheville, Buncombe County and Duke Energy. She serves as the program lead for the McCullough Fellowship, connecting student researchers with local organizations, such as Bountiful Cities, Coweeta Hydrologic Lab of the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, Groundswell International, Wild South, and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

This award continues the regional and national recognition for UNC Asheville’s efforts in sustainability. The Princeton Review named UNC Asheville one of its 361 Green Colleges in October 2016, following a February 2016 ranking naming UNC Asheville the No. 1 school for “Making an Impact.”

For more information on sustainability at UNC Asheville, contact Sonia Marcus, director of sustainability, at 828.251.6627 or smarcus@unca.edu. Visit sustainability.unca.edu to learn more.