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UNC Hires First-Ever Energy and Sustainability Manager to Continue Environmental Action

After advocacy from UNC students, Chris Bowers, who previously worked in Facilities Management at UNC, was hired as the newly created energy and sustainability manager.

During her time at the University of Northern Colorado, fall 2021 graduate Emmy Scott saw and was part of multiple sustainability projects implemented on campus. She helped lead the effort of installing a Solar Flower on the west side of campus that utilizes renewable energy and offsets fossil fuel emissions. She also pushed to get solar panels placed on Parsons Hall and for the creation of a formal sustainability committee on campus. All were successful student-led pursuits. 

“The university is a leading example of what the community should be like,” Scott said. “If we inspire leaders at our university, they will go back to their homes and inspire others. It could all start a butterfly effect.” 

Scott found her passion for sustainability through her involvement in UNC’s chapter of Earth Guardians – a globally recognized environmental action club. She became the club president her senior year with one last project she wanted to see come to fruition – the creation of an energy and sustainability manager staff position at UNC to unify all of the efforts happening on campus. 

“There were so many little projects going on around campus and it's hard to have a central location for it all so that’s when it became really evident to us that we needed to push for a sustainability position,” Scott said. 

Although the idea for such a position wasn’t necessarily a new one, it had been championed in the past by faculty and staff, it was the combined and coordinated efforts of students and faculty that really got the ball rolling. 

Scott, along with fellow Earth Guardians, members of Student Leadership for Environmental Action Fund (LEAF), another student-led sustainability advocacy club wrote letters to President Andy Feinstein advocating for the new position. And over the summer, their request was granted. Chris Bowers, who previously worked in Facilities Management at UNC, was hired as the newly created energy and sustainability manager.

“I’m really excited to take on this new role,” Bowers said. “I love to see the advocacy of the students result in positive things on campus so I’m really looking forward to engaging with those students as well as the rest of campus.” 

Collaboration is exactly what the new president of Earth Guardians, Emmy Adams, hopes comes out of the staffing decision. Along with sharing the same first name, Adams has a similar passion for sustainability as Scott did and plans to continue advocating for it on campus. 

“Sustainability doesn’t just mean making things more environmentally friendly; it means creating systems that will sustain themselves,” Adams said. “So if the university is going to continue to sustain itself, it must make sustainability a priority.” 

Bowers already has a check-list of things he would like to accomplish in the new job to do just that. 

“I’d love to see us continue to reduce our energy consumption. I would also love for us to bring in a lot more renewable energy and embrace some more innovative ideas,” Bowers said. 

His first goal on the job is to benchmark UNC’s energy use.  

“There’s a state mandate that requires owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet to report their energy use,” Bowers said. “For so many buildings and the way we supply energy to them, it’s not very clean-cut on how to measure that, so that’s my first task for the next 12 months or so." 

Bowers says those measurements will then unveil where the university can make improvements. He eventually wants to have a comprehensive sustainability plan that covers all of academics and transportation.  

“Universities, large institutions, are huge users of energy. There’s just a lot of people working, living and consuming so there’s a greater impact on cost savings and energy savings that we do here,” Bowers said. “The impact of a larger user like UNC makes it all that more important to do good things.” 

Knowing this, Adams says having the support from the university, and now Bowers, she’s excited for the 2022-23 school year and the potential projects her Earth Guardians can take on. 

“A sustainability manager can help everyone on campus have a better experience because nobody wants to live in an unhealthy environment. Nobody wants to feel like they’re contributing to environmental destruction,” Adams said.

“This will just really provide a space for students to reflect their concerns, have them heard and be made into action when it comes to sustainability, because a lot of students care. They really do.”

– written by Alani Casiano, a senior English major at UNC

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