Sustainability Awards

Each spring, Sustainability Award winners are selected for outstanding achievements in sustainability on campus, in the community or globally. The awards are offered by the Sustainability Council in the following categories:

  • Student: Recognizes a student’s outstanding achievements in sustainability
  • Faculty Member: Recognizes a faculty member’s outstanding achievements in sustainability
  • Staff Member: Recognizes a staff member’s outstanding achievements in sustainability
  • Department or Organization: Recognizes a department or student organization’s outstanding achievements in sustainability
  • Innovation/Impact: Recognizes outstanding achievement of a sustainability-related project, which could include research, campus operations or a related area

Meet the Winners of the 2024 Sustainability Awards


Kate Macleod is a senior in Sustainable Materials and Technology who has dedicated herself to sustainability on campus and beyond. She has served as an ambassador for the College of Natural Resources since 2021 and interned with NC State’s Waste Reduction and Recycling office since 2022. Kate also works for a local non-profit, Toward Zero Waste, where her contributions helped establish a new Raleigh compost drop-off site. In addition, Kate also supports the Zero Waste Wolves student organization and has initiated numerous waste reduction events and educational initiatives on campus. 


Jessica Yinka Thomas is director of the Business Sustainability Collaborative at the Poole College of Management and an associate professor of practice. Her work includes engaging students, faculty and business partners in developing innovative experiential learning opportunities like the nationally-recognized B Corp Clinic and the newly established graduate certificate program for business sustainability. She is currently the executive director of B Academics, a global network of over 2,100 educators studying B Corps and is also the NC State representative for the global Sustainability Consortium. Thomas teaches and mentors students in sustainable business, social innovation, business ethics and advises the Student Business Sustainability Association


Paul Matney is NC State Dining’s Business Officer. A strong advocate for sustainability, Paul established and leads a Dining Sustainability Committee that integrates sustainability-related activities in the workplace centered on health, wellness and community building. He supervises two Campus As A Classroom student interns who are helping to improve Dining’s sustainable purchasing and marketing efforts. These efforts have led to greater awareness of Dining’s sustainability initiatives and have helped set new targets for sustainable purchasing within Dining. 


The Zero Waste Wolfpack is a collaborative effort by NC State Waste Reduction and RecyclingAthleticsWolfpack Sports PropertiesGFL Environmental and numerous student and community volunteers to reduce landfill waste at NC State Athletics events. These efforts not only have an operational impact on waste management, but they also provide volunteers and fans the opportunity to learn and actively participate in sustainability programming. 


The Blue Economy Innovation Program is a campus-wide initiative to inspire innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to solve the challenges of ocean sustainability. Under the direction of Dr. Chris Osburn, the Blue Economy Innovation Program explores opportunities for workforce development across the state and region and focuses expertise on how to preserve the health of ocean ecosystems while supporting the economic livelihoods of coastal communities.


Campus Thrift Store provides the NC State community with an on-campus sustainable and affordable shopping option. From pop-up shops to Vintage by the Pack Market, which supports over 60 local vintage clothing vendors, Campus Thrift Store promotes a circular economy, a sustainable approach to fashion and a reduction in textile waste. The initiative also hosts donation options for both campus and community members. Its collaborative and community-based platform allows organizations across campus to magnify their impact while making ethical shopping a reality. 

Previous Winners

Meet the 2023 Award Winners

Alie Akins (Student Recipient) is a senior in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, in which she has published multiple papers, presented at prestigious conferences and developed an AI-based anomaly detection algorithm during an internship at the Argonne National Laboratory. Additionally, she serves as the resource conservation team coordinator for the Sustainability Stewards at NC State and has been part of significant projects, such as the solar bus stop on Dan Allen Drive and Solar Space at Gardner Arboretum. Alie is currently working to install a pollinator garden at Talley Student Union along with organizing multiple events to engage students in conservation, including the campus-wide Energy and Water Competition

Dr. Karen Leonas (Faculty Recipient) is a dedicated sustainability leader from the Wilson College of Textiles. With a background in textile chemistry and fashion management, she has a unique understanding of both the science and managerial aspects of sustainability in this field. Her work includes developing courses, research and promoting a circular economy in the textile industry.  Dr. Leonas also mentors both undergraduate and graduate students and serves on sustainability committees on campus and for industry organizations. She is dedicated to making textiles and apparel more sustainable and her efforts have had a significant impact at NC State and the global textile industry. 

Laurel Krynock (Staff Recipient) is a GIS Administrator in the Facilities Division at NC State. Beyond her professional role which directly impacts campus sustainability, Laurel also mentors students for the GIS graduate certificate program on various sustainability projects. These projects include a GIS-based mobile application to manage campus trees, a GIS model to identify optimal locations for electric vehicle charging stations and a GIS-based tool to track and manage pollinator habitats on campus. Laurel’s mentorship efforts have had a significant impact on campus operations and maintenance, as these tools help to improve the health of campus green spaces and help determine optimal charging stations for electric vehicles. 

The NC State Turtle Rescue Team (Organization Recipient) is a volunteer organization run by veterinary students at the College of Veterinary Medicine. These dedicated students provide medical, surgical and husbandry services free of charge to over 300 wild turtles, reptiles and amphibians each year in the hope of releasing them back into the wild. Additionally, the team is involved with various public outreach programs. The Turtle Rescue Team’s efforts directly impact the health and biodiversity of North Carolina’s natural environment.

Sustainability is a primary focus of the Landscape Services (Innovation and Impact Recipient) department at NC State, which oversees the maintenance of 1,200 acres on campus. With a team of 90+ professional landscape horticulturists, Landscape Services prioritizes sustainable practices of using native, pollinator and perennial plants, composting, employing integrated pest management techniques and using electric-powered equipment to decrease noise and air pollution. The department has started an on-campus greenhouse and whenever possible, materials removed from campus landscapes are reused in new projects. Students, staff and faculty seek out the resources and knowledge that the department provides to support curriculum and campus-wide enhancements. Landscape Services also engages with students through internships and support of student-led projects that improve the campus environment.