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Net Zero Water

Old Well through a window on a rainy day

Our water conservation and reclamation efforts saved more than 288 million gallons of water in 2019. That’s about half of the water in University Lake.

Following two severe droughts, the University invested in innovative sustainable water management practices and conservation efforts, which have reduced potable water consumption by 43% since 2007, or an average of 229 million gallons annually for the last 5 years, even with a growing campus population. Today, UNC-Chapel Hill is recognized internationally for its water conservation efforts.

Zero Waste To Landfills

Recycling Bins

In 2019, we diverted 42 percent of our waste from the landfill by recycling and composting.

Minimizing the waste we allow onto campus and recovering reusable resources are crucial components of achieving the University’s goals for a zero-waste campus. Efforts to reuse and recycle campus waste have significantly reduced the total amount of material UNC sends to the landfill: diverting 4,315 tons from the landfill in 2019, for a diversion rate of 42 percent, compared to 12 percent in 1990. This requires campus-wide sustainable materials management and individual behavior change.

Net Zero Greenhouse Gases

Nissan Leaf electric car

Since 2007, UNC has reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent overall, even as the campus expanded in size.

The University works to become greenhouse gas neutral by reducing emissions through improving efficiency on campus, reducing coal use at the Cogeneration facility, increasing on-campus renewable energy and by working toward a strategy to purchase renewable energy. Innovative, renewable energy solutions, smart operational practices, individual choices to save energy, and new high-performance buildings have all contributed to significant energy and GHG emissions reductions.


We are internationally known for our water conservation and reclamation projects. Because of our water conservation efforts, OWASA could delay building a new reservoir, keeping the entire community’s water rates stable.
Since 2007, UNC-Chapel Hill’s water use intensity (kgal/gsf) declined
Waste per capita has fallen approximately 1% per year since fiscal year 2002. We are currently diverting 42% of all campus waste from landfills. Our goal is to increase the diversion rate by recovering more of our waste through increased recycling, compost and reuse efforts.
26% Reduction 2001-2019
Since 2007, campus greenhouse gas emissions have steadily declined. This is due, in part, to improved energy efficiency and a reduction in the total amount of fuel burned. Our goal is to continue to improve energy efficiency on campus while we increase our use of renewable energy. Note that 2020 was largely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2007, UNC’s GHG emission intensity (MTCO2e/gsf) declined

(Overall reduction of 40%)