2021 Sustainability Report
July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021
From sustainability-related academics and events to research discoveries and student programs, NC State continues making progress toward its sustainability goals. This report highlights the university’s sustainability data, program results, cost savings and more from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
Goal: Integrate sustainability into education, experiences and research.
Pivot To Online Learning
Amid COVID-19, many faculty developed creative online tools for virtual learning, including:
- FOR 339 (Dendrology) undergraduate teaching assistants mapped 100+ campus trees so students could use a Google map to study specimens. These trees now have arboretum tags that allow anyone to learn more about campus trees.
- In ENV 101 (Exploring the Environment), campus sustainability field trips were transitioned to virtual tours.
- MBA 582 (Sustainability and Business) worked in small virtual teams on projects with six purpose-driven companies to improve social and environmental impact as part of the B Corp Clinic.
- In ARC 525 (Sustainability Over The Life Of A Building), students worked in interdisciplinary groups to evaluate the operations and maintenance of a campus facility, doing self-guided tours and then working in virtual groups.
Sustainability-related research is throughout the university’s academic colleges. Here are a few research highlights:
- Poole College of Management: Researchers launched an effort to improve working conditions in clothing factories on a global scale by developing and marketing a tool that lets shoppers know how items were made.
- College of Engineering: Researchers found that when a power system combines energy storage and solar power generation, the end result is an unexpected reliability boost, which is encouraging news for renewable energy.
- Wilson College of Textiles: A successful study coating cotton yarns with enzymes could lead to a new generation of chemical filters, including one that can turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into water- soluble baking soda.
- College of Veterinary Medicine: Research is ongoing in Malawi to establish effective antimicrobial resistance identification protocols, train researchers and institute effective surveillance systems in southeast Africa.
- College of Sciences: A study demonstrated the feasibility of using see-through solar panels in greenhouses to generate electricity.
- College of Design: Coastal Dynamics Design Lab continues its N.C. community flood work with grants in Lumberton and Princevillle for resiliency planning and investments in greener infrastructure.
- College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Studies are underway on greenhouse gas mitigation through agriculture, carbon sequestration and soil salinity.
- College of Humanities and Social Sciences: A study found that more students struggled with basic needs of food security and housing during the pandemic.
- College of Education: Researchers identified a teaching strategy that could help students understand climate change and the role that humans play.
- The Graduate School: Geospatial Analytics research uses modeling and data visualization to help ensure that decision-making about prescribed burns considers the vulnerability of communities to smoke downwind.
- College of Natural Resources: A research analysis found counties with more socially vulnerable populations had a higher density of natural gas pipelines overall, suggesting these counties are also at greater risk of facing water and air pollution, public health and safety issues, and other negative impacts associated with the pipelines.
Undergraduate Course Inventory
NC State offers more than 400 undergraduate courses focused on at least one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students Vanessa Merritt, Brianna Johns, Elisabeth Ramsey and Marica Thomas created the course inventory with faculty member Seth Murray.
New Graduate Certificate in Disaster Resilient Policy, Engineering and Design
The certificate in the College of Design will educate the next generation of practitioners and scholars to reduce disaster losses and assist communities adapting to a changing climate.
STIR Impact Scholars
The Strengthening The Impact of Research (STIR) program launched to enhance NC State’s capacity to design and conduct research with broad impacts on society. The inaugural Spring 2021 class included 12 university researchers studying topics including education, environment and sustainable cities.
Artful Arbor Installed
Fourteen students in Horticultural Science 272: Design Build Studio worked with the Facilities Division’s Grounds and Building Services unit to install a new arbor near Kilgore Hall. To boost sustainability, students used organic and native plant species, low impact design, durable and re-purposed building materials and the most easily maintainable plants.
Goal: Engage students in initiatives that promote leadership and service in sustainability.
Race and Place Seminar Series
The Geospatial Graduate Student Organization hosted a Race & Place seminar series to highlight research that contextualizes race by speaking to environmental justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the geographical and geospatial sciences.
Students Expand Composting Efforts
With a Sustainability Fund grant, the Zero Waste Wolves student organization worked with University Housekeeping and Waste Reduction and Recycling to add paper towel composting bins into the public restrooms of Bragaw, Lee, Sullivan, Wood, Bowen, Carrol, Metcalf, Bagwell, Becton and Berry Residence Halls; Avent Ferry Complex; and Wolf Village and Wolf Ridge Apartments during fall 2020.
Forbes 30 Under 30
Jenkins MBA student Olivia Watkins was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for social impact for co-founding the Black Farmer Fund, which works
to build a resilient food ecosystem and community investment fund to better support Black farmers.
Social Innovation Fellows
NC State’s Social Innovation Fellows worked on several sustainability-related projects, including: reducing contamination at the NC State Compost Facility and Research Cooperative, creating an impact report for a Raleigh nonprofit that provides sustainable energy in Uganda, reducing waste in waterways with NC Sea Grant, engaging migrant farm workers about COVID-19 vaccination, broadening awareness of food insecurity among students, and assisting with marketing for a sustainable tourism effort.
This fiscal year, the impact of 30 student leaders in the Stewards leadership development program included:hosting an Environmental Justice Symposium, Meatless March activities and the Earth Showcase art exhibit; creating a Sustainable Living Certification for students; completing grants to install shower timers in a residence hall, as well as create a solar-powered arboretum on campus known as SolarSpace
Winning Idea at Make-A-Thon
The Make-A-Thon sustainability challenge pivoted to virtual in January 2021. Students competed in teams to create the best sustainability solution. The winning idea was an app that connects grocery stores with food-based charities to reduce food waste.
Strawless Step Forward
Students Shannon Dolan and Annalise Hafner received a Sustainability Fund grant to distribute 1,000 reusable straw kits to students on campus. Plus, after observing that coffee locations in Talley Student Union automatically added straws to drinks, Dolan and Hafner reached out to NC State Dining. Within just a few days, straws were moved to the counter and available if students wanted one, resulting in less plastic straw waste.
Poole College of Management students placed seventh in the first annual Ideathon Experience. The team, “Pack of Ideas”, competed against teams from the Americas, Europe and Asia charged to create and present solutions for a post-COVID world. The team’s solution focused on ecology and climate change using electricity-generating stationary bicycles located in gyms, houses and schools.
Community and Culture
Goal: Accelerate a culture of sustainability, inclusivity and well-being on campus and in the community.
Sustainability Named A Core Value
In April 2021, the university adopted a new 2021-2030 Strategic Plan and named sustainability as a value: Sustainability — in our commitment to wise stewardship of resources, prudent financial planning and environmentally responsible operations.
Sustainability Grants Awarded
The NC State Sustainability Fund awarded $137,000 in grants to projects including:
- A new campus greenhouse to provide campus plants for curriculum and research-based projects
- Rocky Branch Trail Learning Garden, which will include the addition of various edible and pollinator vegetation to sites along this campus trail
- Campus as a Classroom Internship pilot program, which is designed to create sustainability-related student learning opportunities on campus
- Support for the NC State student chapter of Engineers Without Borders to complete a clean water project in Guatemala
- Partial funding for installation of rooftop solar at Fitts- Woolard Hall
- Equipment to create compost tea, which will be tested by Grounds Services on campus landscapes
- Construction for new trails in Lake Raleigh Woods
- Student project known as “SolarPack” that aims to create an affordable solar-powered vehicle
- Development of an Ocean Advocacy Workshop
New Inclusive Excellence Certificate
In the fall of 2020, the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity launched a new campus training program called the Inclusive Excellence Certificate.
Campus Farm Adds Kitchen
The cooking kitchen, developed this fiscal year at the NC State Agroecology Education Farm, provides a venue to facilitate cooking classes for students. Supplementing the teaching kitchen at the newly renovated Carmichael Gym, the farm’s kitchen offers education on a variety of fruits and vegetables, their uses and how they are grown. Classes and workshops serve as a platform to engage students in discussion of global and local challenges of food security and accessibility.
Energy Week Debuts
The NC State Energy Collaborative launched the university’s first Energy Week Oct. 19- 23, 2020, with a series of virtual events. The purpose of this new annual emphasis is to increase visibility of the university’s energy use, research and opportunity to shape a clean energy future.
Alternative Service Break
Student Leadership and Engagement offered virtual alternative service break opportunities, including sustainability-related Solar Spark Collegiate Conference and “We are the river” virtual tour with the Coharie Tribe.
NC State Wellness and Recreation reached 1,964 students through its ThriveWell programs and outreach, which included 134 experiences such as educational sessions and workshops, wellness challenges and campus-wide collaborative events.
First SDG Action and Awareness Week
As part of the university’s commitment to the University Global Coalition, NC State Global coordinated a series of campus events as part of UN Sustainable Development Goals Action and Awareness Week March 1-5, 2021.
Sustainability and Innovation Workshop
The Department of Forest Biomaterials offered a summer faculty-led workshop series for the program’s graduate students. Topics included: Green Materials and Biomimicry, Green Chemistry, Environmental Life Cycle Analysis, Techno Economic Tools for Sustainable Economy, Sustainable Design, Start ups, and Sustainable Business and Innovation.
30 events were part of NC State Earth Month (April 2021).
642 participants at the Sustainability Partners event series hosted by the Staff Senate’s Resources and Environment Committee.
5 campus events achieved sustainable event certification during fiscal year 2021.
59 sustainability-related offerings hosted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at NC State. The program provides non- credit courses, study trips and events for adults aged 50+.
130 sustainability-related university events during fiscal year 2021.
72% of incoming students in 2020 indicated the university’s commitment to the environment and sustainability influenced their decision to attend NC State.
NC State’s Office of Partnerships has fielded an increase in companies interested in collaborating with the university to advance their sustainability strategies. Through a new partnership with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, NC State is working to support the company’s sustainability goals. College of Design researchers are helping shape biodiversity strategies at the company’s new facility, which will manufacture life- saving medicines and vaccines. NC State also provides expertise on an ecosystem services approach for the development, which will create 725 jobs and infuse $2 billion into the state’s economy. The sustainability partnership was a key driver in the company’s decision to grow in North Carolina, where it is the largest life sciences investment in state’s history. With the Plant Sciences Initiative set to open in 2022 on Centennial Campus, BASF has been a critical partner in its development and funds and mentors students focused on environmental agriculture. Other collaborations over the last year have involved sustainability research in plant sciences and crop protection with the goal of bringing new solutions to market. BASF and NC State have been partners for decades, collaborating on more than 100 research projects.
Assessing Covid-19’s Impact on Students
An October 2020 survey conducted by NC State professor Mary Haskett and staff member John Dorris indicated that 15% of NC State students experienced homelessness since the pandemic began and nearly 25% experienced food insecurity in a 30-day period. The survey also identified declines in wellness and learning, with nearly 90% of students who have experienced homelessness reporting that their learning was negatively impacted by their living situation.
Online Sustainability Orientation
New campus hires engage in a new sustainability orientation online module in reporter.ncsu.edu as part of the employee onboarding process.
NC State Athletics launched its SustainableWolfpack initiative as a part of its aim to be a national leader for innovative practices in sports sustainability. The launch featured a website, online pledge and a new Sustainable Wolfpack annual emphasis at a home football game.
Operations, Planning and Design
Goal: Model sustainability through efficient, innovative facilities and operations that educate the campus community and improve the quality of life.
37% reduction in campus energy use per gross square foot since 2003.
64% reduction in campus potable water use per gross square foot in 2002. Overall campus water reduction per gross square foot is 56%.
61% of campus waste diverted from landfill.
480,984 passenger boardings on the Wolfline campus bus system.
768 participants in the WolfTrails Alternative Commuter Program.
17% of NC State Dining food purchases from local sources.
478 new bicycle registrations on campus.
1,150 GoPasses distributed to campus community for regional bus transportation
11,134 pounds of clothing, small goods and food diverted from the landfill and donated to nonprofits during residence hall student move-out
Two New Campus Buildings Open
Fitts-Woolard Hall and Carmichael Wellness and Recreation Center opened this fiscal year. Both facilities incorporate sustainability features and are expected to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Grounds Services Goes Electric
In June 2021, Grounds Services replaced some gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles and hand-held power tools with battery-powered equipment to reduce noise and emissions. Three electric vehicle and tool charging stations on campus support this first deployment of tools. The goal is to create districts on each campus dedicated to electric equipment as close to 100% as possible.
Compost Collection Expands
The College of Veterinary Medicine implemented composting throughout its campus buildings. A Wake County grant provided 420 compost pails for residents at Western Manor and ES King Village campus apartments. The new Fitts-Woolard Hall, renovated Bureau of Mines and 111 Lampe buildings opened as Zero Waste Workplaces. Also, the College of Natural Resources became a Zero Waste Workplace with new compost collection bins, dumpsters and plastic film collection points.
With to-go meals increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, NC State Dining provided reusable Pack-n-Go containers to all students and held their commitment to using compostable packaging. Dining also provided outdoor composting bins and moved to a strawless, compostable sip lid in Fall 2020 to reduce plastic waste.
Extended Winter Break Expands Energy Savings
NC State avoided $389,000 in energy costs from Dec. 24-Jan. 3, which is the typical winter break. Extra setback efforts from Nov. 25-Dec. 23 and Jan. 4-18 collectively generated an additional $485,000 in avoided energy costs.
Top (Air) Quality
Employees from the Facilities Division and Environmental Health and Safety implemented a comprehensive indoor air quality plan to mitigate against COVID-19.
Bee Campus USA
NC State became a certified Bee Campus USA in spring 2021 for its ongoing efforts to conserve pollinator species.
Grounds Services is saving money and boosting sustainability by growing flowers and plants in its own greenhouse on the west side of campus. The goal is to grow half of the perennials planted on campus, minimizing the amount purchased from suppliers.
Sustainability On The Roof
At Carmichael Gym, Facilities Division employees leveraged the COVID-19 closure to install a roof overlay at a fraction of the estimated cost, extending the life of the existing roof, which frequently required repairs.
$10 Million Milestone
In summer 2021, the collective energy savings generated by Building Maintenance and Operations’ Commissioning Team within the Facilities Division topped $10 million since 2014.
Campus Paper Use Declines
The Office of Information Technology (OIT) worked with five new campus units to scan or import 529,023 documents into the OnBase digital document management system in fiscal year 2021, bringing the total number of managed documents to more than 12.5 million. OIT also saw a significant decline in the number of pages printed throughout the campus WolfPrint service, dropping from 1.34 million in 2019-20 to 663,635 this fiscal year.
Virtual Meetings Reduce Emissions
The Office of Information Technology reported that 3,894 individuals used Google Meet for video conferencing in an average week in fiscal year 2021, with 916 using it in an average day and 8,438 using it in an average 30-day period. This is a significant increase over pre-pandemic use of the service and contributes to reduction in emissions from what previously would have been in-person meetings requiring travel.
Goal: Propel awareness and sustainability at NC State and beyond.
134,625 pageviews on sustainability.ncsu.edu
9,743 followers on NC State sustainability social media accounts
3,083 average weekly reader of NC State’s sustainability e-newsletter
1,432 incoming students in fiscal year 2021 requested information about campus sustainability – an increase of 7% from the previous year.
Awards and Honors
Global Ranking for Sustainability Impact
In its first year participating, NC State ranked in the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, which evaluates the research, stewardship, outreach and teaching contributions of universities toward the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). NC State ranked:
- No. 1 in the U.S. and tied for No. 6 in the world on the goal of “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” (SDG Goal 9)
- No. 7 in the U.S. and No. 41 in the world for “Clean Water and Sanitation” (SDG Goal 6)
- No. 7 in the U.S. and No. 64 in the world for “Zero Hunger” (SDG Goal 2)
- Tied for No. 30 in the U.S. for “Partnerships for the Goals” (SDG Goal 17)
- Overall, NC State ranked in the top 300 out of 1,115 universities around the globe and tied for No. 16 among U.S. universities.
Top Green College List
The Princeton Review ranked NC State 30th on its 2020 “Top 50 Green Colleges” list announced Fall 2020.
An ‘Energy Elite’
Among 187 U.S.-based research colleges and universities with energy programs, NC State was named one of 10 “Energy Elite” colleges and universities by the American Energy Society (AES), cited as “the most accomplished and least recognized program in the country.”
NC State’s Social Innovation Fellows program won the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award, recognizing colleges’ and universities’ exceptional achievement in the field.
NC State Sustainability Awards
Winners were Martina Gonzalez Bertello (student category), Dr. Seth Murray (faculty category), Connor Celentano (staff category), University Housekeeping (department/ organization category), Feed the Pack (student- led initiative category) and Wilson College of Textiles Sustainability Committee (innovation/ impact category).