Chancellor's Spotlight

Sustainable Carolina

Within the framework of Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, a new comprehensive initiative is moving Carolina's sustainability efforts forward.

Blooming red bud branches loom in the foreground of South Building on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus.

Within the framework of Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, a new comprehensive initiative is moving Carolina's sustainability efforts forward.

April 8, 2021

One year ago, I established the Carolina Sustainability Council to reimagine and align sustainability efforts across our campus. Mike Piehler has led this team of students, staff and faculty since September. He has also served as Carolina’s chief sustainability officer and a special assistant to me around sustainability. Mike is a renowned scientist who has dedicated his career to taking on pressing environmental challenges. I’m excited to have him spearheading this work to ensure Carolina is leading the way in building a sustainable future.

Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Chancellor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



Mike Piehler poses outsideIn my time as chief sustainability officer, I have quickly come to appreciate the deep and broad expertise and commitment around sustainability at Carolina. Our operationional experts are effectively running a small city and working to do so as efficiently as possible. Our faculty is innovating around solar energy, environmental finance, energy life-cycle assessment, sustainable enterprise and so many other exciting areas. And our students offer innovative ideas and deep commitment to a more sustainable Carolina.

That’s why I am so proud to serve as chief sustainability officer and lead the Carolina Sustainability Council. It is my and the council’s role to harness the expertise and passion of our diverse community to make sure we are advancing sustainability efforts at Carolina. Actions we are taking to make Carolina more sustainable today –– as students, as educators, as members of our local and global community –– will ensure that we are meeting our commitment in the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, to serve to benefit society.

We are finalizing the transition to a new organizational umbrella, Sustainable Carolina, which will encompass the full range of sustainability efforts on campus. While planning for this transition, we have continued to work hard to reach short-term and long-term sustainability goals. This means limiting emission of greenhouses gases, as well as reducing water consumption and the waste we send to landfills. Others have taken notice and are recognizing the University for its efforts.

  • Carolina is ranked No. 2 in the United States in meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by Times Higher Education.
  • The University was ranked No. 3 in the United States for sustainability efforts in the 2020 UI Green Metric world rankings.
  • And we received a gold rating for sustainability performance by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

These are just a few of the ways our community has earned recognition as a sustainability leader, and I’m eager to share several more exciting updates in the very near future.

It’s also important to remember that sustainability work is not just about an environmental ethic, it is also about operational efficiency. Reducing waste, water use and electricity consumption brings economic benefits that will help the University’s bottom line.

I’m convinced that our best ideas will come when the many talented and committed people across our campus are empowered to share their vision for solutions to our biggest environmental challenges. I invite all members of our community to engage with the Carolina Sustainability Council and our freshly reorganized Sustainable Carolina office so we can help support your innovative ideas to build a more sustainable Carolina.

Mike Piehler ’90, ’94 (M.S.P.H) ’97 (Ph.D.)
UNC-Chapel Hill Chief Sustainability Officer

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