Academics and Research Banner with UNCW Sustainability leaf logo indicating that this is a collaborative effort.

The Princeton Review survey of prospective students showed that 63% overall said having information about a college's commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school. There is also research showing that universities with higher STARS have average higher retention and graduation rates. UNCW is listed on the Princeton Review Green Colleges, Sierra Club Cool Schools, and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education STARS rating system.

UNCW Sustainability is dedicated to creating hands-on experiences and supporting research in and outside of the classroom. While there are some obvious academic initiatives such as The Green Initiative Fund Mini-Grants and the Sustainability Minor, there are many ways that the university supports and promotes sustainable education.


Goal: Increase the number of courses by 5% that incorporate sustainability annually.


  • In the fall of 2020, the first Sustainable Seahawk Living Learning Community will come online!
  • 76 out of 88 academic departments offer at least one sustainability course and/or course that includes a sustainability
  • UNCW's eight learning goals support sustainable development in all degrees, diplomas, or certificate programs.
  • The Department of Environmental Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Sciences degrees
    • The Bachelor of Arts degree allows students a variety of specialization courses in both social and natural sciences.
    • The Bachelor of Science degree is intended to give intensive training in either the biological or physical sciences.
    • The Master of Science in Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary, graduate degree designed for professionals, practitioners, citizens, and students who wish to strengthen their knowledge of the environment.
  • The Sustainability Minor incorporates classes that all three pillars of sustainability, and is a perfect addition to any major
  • An example of a sustainability-focused immersive program
    • Four classes from Recreation, Sport Leadership and Tourism Management Program, Department of Environmental Studies and Coastal and Ocean Policy Program come together on a 10-day kayaking and camping trip along the North Carolina coast. The itinerary also includes visiting several museums, memorials and educational speeches related to the health of the coastal environment and how it affects tourism, recreation, and the community.

      Course objectives include:
      1. Students will gain knowledge and understanding of historical, geophysical, biological, ecological, developmental, environmental, economic and recreational
      issues related to the North Carolina coastal zone/environment
      2. Students will gain knowledge and understanding of use conflicts inherent in the North Carolina coastal zone system/environment
      3. Students will develop and apply skills necessary for safe and environmentally sensitive participation in and management of coastal recreation resources
      4. Students will become trained in basic camping and kayaking
      5. Students will learn and apply critical thinking and decision-making skills through issue discussion and analysis.
  • UNCW utilizes the campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in air & climate, buildings, dining services, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste, water, and health.
  • UNCW's Bookstore offers textbook rental, used books for purchase as well as eTextbooks
  • The Organic Chemistry Department implements "green" chemistry

Action Plan Steps

  • Conduct an assessment of the sustainability literacy of students.
  • Create an ongoing program or programs that offer incentives for faculty in multiple disciplines to develop new sustainability courses and/or incorporate sustainability into existing courses.
  • Increase the number of UNI 101 presentations and programs accepted for UNI credit.
  • Create ways for the arts to display sustainability in classes.


Goal: Establish Sustainability as a point of pride for UNCW  Faculty/Student Researchers. Increase percent of research faculty engaged in sustainability-focused/related topics.


  • The mission of The Green Initiative Fund is to finance research, promote sustainable practices and encourage student leadership, while fostering an attractive, functional, sustainable, and safe campus. Faculty can apply for grants in order to complete this research.
  • NC DOCKS is the shared institutional repository of five University of North Carolina System universities: ASU, ECU, UNCG, UNCP, and UNCW. It provides open access to various research in digital form produced by the faculty and graduate students of the member universities, including but not limited to peer-reviewed literature, working papers, student terminal projects, and technical papers.
  • UNCW now hosts a yearly Sustainability Poster Competition

Action Plan Steps

  • Establish and raise funds for sustainability research endowment.