WILMINGTON, N.C. —  University of North Carolina Wilmington is joining the ranks of many organizations around the world in attempting to do their part to create a more sustainable future. 

What You Need To Know

  • The UNC system hopes to be carbon neutral by 2050

  • UNCW owns over 1,600 acres of land and has more than 18,000 students in Wilmington

  • The college's Office of Sustainability has installed things like rain gardens, solar panels and recycling bins to promote sustainability

The Office of Sustainability at UNCW has many programs in place to make sustainable options readily available and second nature.

Maiya Baum, the university's sustainability coordinator, said they're working on making the campus completely sustainable by turning areas that were once problems into things that will preserve the environment for the future instead. 

Maiya Baum sits with sustainability peer educators at a solar powered umbrella at UNCW

“We try to make sustainability applicable to everybody,” Baum said. “When we talk about sustainability, it's really ensuring that our resources today can really persist for generations to come.”

They've left nothing untouched, from rain gardens and pervious pavement in parking lots, to composting in dining halls and solar-powered charging stations outside the library.  

“We would love to see as many sustainability initiatives on campus as possible,” Baum said. “I think it's probably one of the top things that any university can be doing right now.”

Due to the high number of buildings concentrated in one place and the sheer number of students who are on campus, UNCW and other colleges can have an impact on the future health of our world. 

Annie O'Neill, a peer educator for the Office of Sustainability, who happens to be an English major, emphasized that working toward a better planet isn't something exclusively reserved for those in the sciences. Sustainability should be a common cause we can all get behind. 

Baum and two peer educators make their way around campus checking on various sustainable initiatives

“The UNC system as a whole has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” O'Neill said. “So we're trying to work on making that transition to sustainable and renewable energy and resources, which is why we're trying to work on solar energy.”

All schools in the UNC system are now required to have a chief sustainability officer on their campus. 

Their end goal is to teach students how to be global citizens and inspire not only other universities, but the surrounding community to consider ways to build a more sustainable future.

“We can do all the sustainable things, we can have all these sustainable projects, but we're not going to have the support - we're not going to achieve our main goal unless people know about it,” Baum said.