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The Champion Sustainability Fund

Our green-revolving fund is focused on improving energy efficiency on campus, and Carolina community members are encouraged to submit their project ideas. Project ideas are reviewed by an advisory group, and selected projects receive seed funding. All projects must be completed by UNC Facilities Services.

Once approved and implemented, cost savings created through an energy efficiency project is reinvested into the fund, for future projects. These reinvested savings build future funding levels for projects to help the Carolina community achieve its sustainability goals.

About HanesBrands, Inc. Sustainability

Winston-Salem based HanesBrands, Inc. embraces sustainability across its entire supply chain. In 2021, HanesBrands gifted Sustainable Carolina $1 million. The gift accelerated Sustainable Carolina’s work, establishing the Champion Sustainability Fund and an internship program.


Champion Sustainability Fund Projects

Sustainable Carolina received applications for the first group of projects in 2022.

The first project in Carmichael Arena, was completed in fall 2023. It included lighting upgrades and LED video boards to decrease energy consumption and improve the game day experience.

 “We are so pleased to partner with UNC Athletics to both transform the experience in this iconic venue and to significantly advance the university’s sustainability goals. Carolina has a long history of commitment to sustainability and this project is a great example of collaboration to reduce costs, increase performance and improve sustainability.” – Mike Piehler, UNC’s Chief Sustainability Officer

UNC Student Stores will begin a Champion Sustainability Fund project in 2023.


Champion Sustainability Fund: Application Process

Are you ready to propose a project? The application includes questions to assist the advisory board in determining a proposed project’s viability and impact. These include a description of the project, its costs, benefits and impact at the university.

Once submitted, the advisory group reviews the project application based on the selection criteria below. From there, the board determines whether the requested funding will be approved.

Selection Criteria

  • Length of payback period (no more than 5 years)
  • Reasonable cost
  • Total energy/water savings (use this calculator to determine CO2 emissions savings)
  • Anticipated duration of project implementation
  • Use of innovative technology
  • Likelihood of Educational opportunities
  • Anticipated positive social impacts

Champion Sustainability Fund: Project Implementation

Once a project is approved, it’s the responsibility of the applicant(s) to submit a project request through UNC Facilities Services. Facilities will provide an estimated project budget. Applicants must submit this budget to the advisory board. If the budget is reasonably similar to the budget on the application, funds will be disbursed.

Fund Recovery

Once completed, units pay their regular energy bill to UNC Energy Services. Energy Services sends an additional utility bill annually, until the loan is repaid in full. These funds are recovered based on the payback period provided on the original application.

Once the loan is paid off, the fund retains 25% of the savings throughout the life of the project. For example, a $50,000 loan with a 5-year payback and 10-year lifespan will incur a $10,000 annual bill for 5 years and a $2,500 annual bill for 5 years after the loan is repaid. This strategy will grow the fund so that more projects can be funded.

Advisory Board

  • Mike Piehler, Chief Sustainability Officer and Director, Institute for the Environment
  • Melanie Elliott, Sustainability Analyst, Sustainable Carolina
  • Chris Fox, Chief Sustainability Officer, HanesBrands, Inc.
  • Jessica O’Hara, Energy Analyst, UNC Energy Management
  • Erin McElligott, Project Office Manager, UNC Energy Services
  • Jeff Mittelstadt, Professor of the Practice and Executive Director, Center for Sustainable Enterprise, Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • Erin Riggs, Executive Director, Environmental Finance Center, School of Government
  • Ileana Fenwick, PhD Candidate, Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences


Apply - Champion Sustainability Fund


Questions? Send us an email