Campus News

Guskiewicz establishes University Sustainability Commission

The commission, led by Mike Piehler, will align sustainability efforts across the University and support the work of the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative.

Mike Piehler
Mike Piehler (Image courtesy of Emily Williams/UNC Institute for the Environment)

Editor’s note: The University Sustainability Commission is now called the University Sustainability Council.

A new University-wide commission will oversee and advise on Carolina’s sustainability efforts, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz announced Wednesday in conjunction with Earth Day 2020.

The University Sustainability Commission will support the work of the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative, Carolina’s integrated approach to reducing its environmental footprint through three sustainability goals: net zero water usage; zero waste to landfills; and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“This Commission will help us align sustainability efforts across the University, evaluate our progress towards the Three Zeros goals and administer sustainability grants,” Guskiewicz said. “It will also advise me on action plans to make Carolina greener and make recommendations for our path toward realizing the goals of the Three Zeros Initiative.”

Mike Piehler, BS ’90, MSPH ’94, PhD ‘97, director of the UNC Institute for the Environment, will chair the Commission. Piehler holds joint faculty appointments in the Department of Marine Sciences, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, and the Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program at UNC-Chapel Hill.

His research seeks to understand the effects of natural and human pollution stressors on the ecology and biogeochemistry of shallow water systems throughout freshwater marine environments. He has published more than 80 papers and advises governments, non-government organizations and industry.

Under Piehler’s leadership, the Institute for the Environment has enhanced its facilitation of interdisciplinary environmental research, focusing the University’s resources on significant environmental topics, and serving as a front door for environmental research, outreach and engagement. He has fostered new collaborations between environmental programs and centers across campus, and led the integration of faculty, students, and staff in research, education, and engagement on pressing environmental issues that face communities in North Carolina and throughout the world.

“Mike is a leader in researching the ways in which human actions affect marine ecosystems, and an expert at convening his colleagues to work toward solving some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time,” Guskiewicz said. “I am grateful that he’s agreed to lead the University Sustainability Commission’s important work.”

The University will share an updated version of the Three Zeros roadmap soon.