GREENSBORO- There are times when the term “hot” is a good thing: when meals arrive at tables, when an entertainer performs, and when furnaces works in January.
But hot is less positive when it comes to global temperatures, which reached a new peak in July, the hottest month in recorded history according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The average global temperature for July was 62.01 degrees fahrenheit, making it the warmest month going back to at least 1880, according to the NOAA. July also marks the 15th consecutive record-breaking month for high temperatures, fueling fears that human-driven climate change has reached a tipping point.
So what can UNCG students do to help combat climate change?
“Students can participate in multiple ways,” UNCG Office of Sustainability Coordinator Shanna Eller said. “They can do it through the choices they make in terms of their everyday behavior and by expressing their desire for choices that build a sustainable campus, which reinforces the priority on sustainability and helps administrative units take increasingly aggressive steps forward in their business operations.”
The Office of Sustainability has initiatives in a number of areas, including energy usage, tree care, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste reduction and recycling. In 2011, then-Chancellor Linda Brady signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which required UNCG to work towards achieving climate neutrality. This resulted in the university developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP), which details how UNCG will accomplish this.
The initiatives have resulted in major financial savings for the university, as well as a lower climate footprint. Over $9.2 million dollars have been saved through energy conservation since 2003, according to the office’s website. Water consumption has also dropped over 63% since that time, saving an additional $13 million.
Another area where the university has made progress is in waste reduction. Students are encouraged to buy reusable products, which contain at least 30% recycled materials and those which use less packaging. Even re-using paper that’s already been printed on one side for taking notes makes a difference, according to the website.
Students can also help lower the university’s climate footprint by changing their transportation habits. Twenty-eight percent of UNCG’s emissions come from students and faculty commuting. Climate-friendly transportation options include carpooling, biking and walking, according to the website.
The university continues to develop new programs, according to Eller. “This is the second year of UNCG’s Green Fund and we are excited to see an expanding group of people making applications to the fund to help propel sustainability focused activities on campus and in the future,” Eller said. “Last year Green Fund monies supported two large handfuls of projects ranging from LED lighting retrofits to slow travel in Italy.”
UNCG students and faculty can submit proposals to the Green Fund for sustainability projects on the campus and elsewhere. Applications can be found online at http://facsustainability.uncg.edu/green-fund/.
The office continues to seek new ways of lowering UNCG’s climate footprint, Eller said. “The UNCG Sustainability Council held a retreat last week to review progress on UNCG’s Climate Action plan for climate neutrality by 2050, as required by the NC University System,” says Eller. “Stemming from that retreat will be a more strategic focus on initiatives that may need multi-unit support to move forward.”
Students can continue to fight climate change even after they graduate, Eller stated.
“They can continue to make a difference through the work they do in their academic disciplines both while they are in school and once they graduate,” Eller said, “the choices they make in their professional work.”