UNC–Chapel Hill proved that it is “green” by winning a national Environmental Protection Agency contest for the largest one-year reduction in energy use, beating out companies such as Sears and Penney’s.
While I endorse the enthusiasm of the students, I am skeptical about the significance of this and most other “sustainability” measures on campus.
The Wall Street Journal revealed that one technique was “persistent coaxing of students to dial down hot water usage in the laundry room.” My guess is that the Morrison Residence Hall students were flagrant energy users the previous year but got into the spirit of the competition as it heated up. They reduced their utility bills by $250,000.
And at a government university where profit is disdained and not even measured, expensive equipment like their solar-powered hot-water system can be installed with little regard to cost. Real-world companies such as Sears and Penney’s must worry about the total bottom line, not just energy expenses.
In many instances, being “green” is a luxury, and there is a lot of luxury at Chapel Hill.