Campus News

Piehler launches Carolina Sustainability Council

The Council will support the transition to Sustainable Carolina, a new comprehensive initiative to move Carolina’s sustainability efforts forward, including the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative.

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

In his new role as chief sustainability officer, Mike Piehler recently kicked off the University’s new 11-member Carolina Sustainability Council with an online meeting Oct. 7.

The Council will support the transition to Sustainable Carolina, a new comprehensive initiative to move Carolina’s sustainability efforts forward, including the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative, the integrated approach to reducing Carolina’s environmental footprint through three goals: net-zero water usage, zero waste to landfills and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The Well recently talked to Piehler, who has spent 21 years at Carolina as a coastal ecosystem ecologist in the Institute of Marine Science and director of the Institute for the Environment, to learn more about the Council and its work.

What is Sustainable Carolina?

Sustainable Carolina is a new comprehensive initiative to move Carolina’s sustainability efforts forward. It will harness the tremendous array of sustainability related work throughout the University to drive excellence in this area. Integrating Carolina’s sustainability practice with its research, education and service activities is a defining feature of Sustainable Carolina.

How will the Three Zeros initiative fit into Sustainable Carolina?

Three Zeros isn’t going away. The new initiative will retain the Three Zeros — net-zero water usage, zero waste to landfills and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions — as aspirational goals but will also adopt a broader suite of near-term sustainability targets.

What is the Carolina Sustainability Council?

The Council will advise the chancellor and cabinet on the University’s sustainability strategy within the framework of Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. The Council includes students, faculty and staff, and its members bring a broad range of expertise, experience and perspectives from across the University.

What are the goals of the Carolina Sustainability Council?

The Council will help to broaden our sustainability efforts to include all the research, educational and service work that Carolina’s great faculty and students do around sustainability. It will also work to coordinate and enhance our sustainability efforts across campus.

How did your background prepare you for your sustainability work?

I grew up in Pittsburgh and lived through its transformation from a steel city with rivers of different shades of brown to being regarded among the best cities in the United States with pike in the rivers. I’ve been at Carolina for a number of years, and I’m familiar with its faculty and culture around sustainability. My research program has always been focused on environmental problem solving. And I have experience leading diverse groups of stakeholders working toward sustainability goals. It’s a natural fit with my environmental sciences and engineering background.