Working Toward a More Sustainable UNCW

As alumni prepare for a Homecoming celebration like no other, new buildings, new programs and new people await the flock back to campus. The UNCW Office of Sustainability is also ready to embrace a full celebration with a focus on making it cleaner, healthier and more equitable for all.

Sustainability Peer Educators during Our Green Future community event in 2018

Homecoming 2022, planned for Feb. 7-13, will be the university's most sustainable to date.

“Sustainability is finding the win-win situations among people, planet and profit,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Kat Pohlman. “At UNCW, the movement is happening from the grassroots up, which is really cool. When students reached out about Homecoming and making it sustainable, we wanted to research, see what our options were and present our best plan. Where we landed was for Homecoming to be a Gold Talon event.”

Gold TalonGold Talon status is the highest of three certifications (blue, teal and gold) the Office of Sustainability assigns to spaces and events based on efforts to be environmentally, socially and fiscally conscious.

solar panel at Homecoming TEALgate

Solar panels at
Homecoming TEALgate

“Our Gold Talon program has existed for a number of years, but it’s really amping up now,” said Pohlman. “These Gold Talon events are a way to recognize sustainable efforts and how many people and organizations are already using these sustainable practices.”

For Homecoming, some of the sustainability efforts visitors could see on campus include:

  • Recycling, trash and composting bins at the Champagne Brunch, TEALgate, the Homecoming Brunch hosted by AAGA, and more
  • Two rain gardens near DePaolo Hall and a rock garden next to DeLoach Hall, all of which collect excess water during heavy rainfall before it can become polluted runoff
  • Solar panel phone charging stations and solar umbrellas
  • New signage featuring the Office of Sustainability's green leaf

“The number one point of pride for UNCW is location. If we’re going to define ourselves by our environment, we should also take care of it," Pohlman said. "A third of sustainability is people. Over the past two years we’ve talked so much about people and equity in all we do. That’s all part of sustainability.”

During the university's ongoing comprehensive campaign, Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, more than $14,000 has been raised on behalf of sustainability efforts through online gifts and various programs.

In partnership with UNCW's Center for Marine Science, the Office of Sustainability will be rooting for high-scoring Seahawk basketball games during Homecoming weekend. Pohlman's group will purchase one plug of marsh grass for each point scored by the men’s and women's teams to help build a sustainable and resilient shoreline.

This fall, the Office of Sustainability paired with the Student Government Association for a crowdfunding Tealstarter project that aimed to help the university 'run on the sun.' More than $2,500 was raised in support of this initiative, allowing UNCW to add solar power to more portions of campus.

“We wanted students to feel like they were a part of this process,” Pohlman said of this fall’s Tealstarter project. “We’re proud of the amount of money we raised, but we’re prouder of the 87 who donated. That was the biggest number of donors to a Tealstarter project this fall and the second-largest number in the history of Tealstarters. We’re so proud of that involvement and investment.”

UNCW’s sustainability efforts have also been recognized on a national level. In April, UNCW was one of only five colleges and universities nationwide to be named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee. Recipients practice innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs; improve health and wellness; and provide effective sustainability education.

Wilmington's first certified green restaurant

In spring 2019, Dub’s Café in the Warwick Center (pictured above) was recognized as the first 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant in Wilmington. The Shore Dining Hall, which opened in October 2021, and Wagoner Dining Hall are also 3-Star Certified Green Restaurants on campus. In addition, Wagoner is a zero-waste dining hall, meaning more than 90 percent of waste is diverted from the landfill by reusing, recycling or composting.

“We are not here to be the sustainability police,” said Pohlman. “We’re here to be in meetings and tell people about the resources and guidance we can provide. We're here to support.”

Alumni, students, faculty and staff fondly think of the beach and the beauty of campus as keys to their UNCW experience. As North Carolina’s coastal university, UNCW has an intrinsic connection to the environment and takes great pride in maintaining its natural allure and resources.

Creating future-focused programs and facilities like no other are priorities of Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW. To learn more or make a gift, visit uncw.edu/give.

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