Environment at Carolina

From energy shortages to water scarcity, Carolina is tackling environmental problems with expertise from every discipline. Building on the collaborative spirit of UNC-Chapel Hill, we offer multidisciplinary programs in research, education and service while integrating environmental studies and outreach opportunities into the student experience. We’re also committed to creating a more sustainable Carolina through the collective efforts of faculty, students and staff.

The rapid growth of the world’s population and an increasing demand for consumable goods and services are depleting natural resources and placing stresses on the environment. At the same time, vibrant economies and social justice are important factors in improving quality of life. Building a society that strengthens environmental quality, economic vitality and social justice creates a challenge — and opportunity — for Carolina’s environmental experts.

Carolina is already responding to this challenge by bringing together diverse groups of experts in law, business, medicine, policy, and biological, chemical, physical and environmental sciences to build a more sustainable Carolina and focus on the most significant environmental issues through research, education and service.

Confronting Environmental Challenges


Where the Water Will Rise

Alumni Distinguished Professor Rick Luettich is shedding light on past hurricanes while providing the tools to predict which areas will be most vulnerable to flooding in the future.


What is ‘safe’ sanitation?

Early results from a UNC Water Institute study are upending much of what we thought we knew about safe sanitation practices.

Diamond Holloman, a PhD candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill, listens to Malinda Maynor Lowery, co-director of Southern futures at a meeting in a community center in Robeson County.

The Human Side of Research

An interdisciplinary team of humanities students and faculty are documenting climate change in Robeson County.


Going to the source

Two UNC-Chapel Hill applied mathematicians realized the beautiful holy lakes of the Himalayas could be a crystal ball into climate change.


Tiny particles, big discoveries

Will Vizuete captures aerosols from around the world and brings them back for testing in his lab to improve our understanding of how air pollution forms.


Department of Energy funds milestone for North Carolina

A $40 million award will accelerate fundamental research of the production of fuels from sunlight.

    Launching Environmental Leaders


    Combining Carolina Courses

    Hard science and creative writing combine in a Carolina course that explores one of the state’s most magnificent treasures.


    Experiential Education for Future Environmental Leaders

    The Pavel Molchanov Scholars program makes experiential learning accessible to more students interested in critical environmental issues.


    Climate Game-Changers

    Carolina undergraduates traveled to Ecuador to take a closer look at the Andes Mountains' carbon sink.

    Ashleigh Henry

    Environmental Factors and Human Health

    A Chancellor’s Science Scholar is researching the intersection between the environment and human health.

    Student working in a lab.
    Student Support

    A Collaborative Initiative

    The 21st Century Environmental Health Scholars program will help increase diversity and access to the field of environmental health sciences.


    Preparing the next generation of energy leaders

    The Duke Energy Foundation funds Carolina programs that prepare future leaders for the energy workforce.

      Encouraging Environmental Excellence

      Map of North Carolina state parks.

      Bringing Students Outside

      A collaborative is providing teachers with outdoor experiences and lesson plans through A Park for Every Child.

      Global Impact

      Sustaining Families in the Galapagos Islands

      UNC Center for Galapagos Studies is reactivating the Galapagos economy through science, community and work.


      Preparing for environmental threats

      A new center at Carolina’s Institute for the Environment is helping communities better prepare and plan for hurricanes and future risks posed by climate change.

      Rachel Noble

      Testing Water Systems for COVID-19

      UNC-Chapel Hill researcher Rachel Noble is studying the transmissibility of COVID-19 through water and the environment.

      Flowers in Chapel Hill
      Global Impact

      Sustainability in Higher Education

      Carolina is leading the world in clean water and sanitation efforts, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

      Flooded New Bern, NC

      Resilience, not Reaction

      “It is more effective to fund resilience strategies than it is to rebuild after damage occurs," said Piehler, who is leading a $2 million research study.

        “Sustainable Carolina harnesses the tremendous array of sustainability related work throughout the University to drive excellence in this area. Integrating Carolina’s sustainability practice with its research, education and service activities is a defining feature of this initiative.”
        – Mike Piehler, Chief Sustainability Officer

        Supported by the Carolina Sustainability Council, Sustainable Carolina is the University’s comprehensive initiative to fuel and harness the array of sustainability-related work throughout the campus and to integrate sustainability practice with its research, education and service activities.

        Read More

        Support environmental initiatives
        at Carolina.

        Harnessing the depth and breadth of environmental excellence at Carolina, we’re transforming our educational approaches, expanding our research enterprise, further engaging and informing our communities, and providing practical solutions to environmental challenges. Reach out to learn how you can support environmental initiatives at Carolina.

        Sherry Brennan
        Executive Director of Development for Constituent Programs
        [email protected]