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Campus Leaders Urged to Promote ‘Uninhibited Imagination’ to Find Options for Innovative Ideas

July 24, 2013. After successfully reducing campus waste, as well as energy and water consumption, what’s next for university and college campuses across North Carolina?

Amory B. Lovins told university and college representatives attending the second Appalachian Energy Summit at Appalachian State University that the uninhibited imagination of students would bring the next wave of innovations aimed at ending the nation’s dependence on non-renewable energy.

“Experts see few options; beginners see many options,” he said. “That wonderful gift called beginner’s mind lets intensely curious young people with sharp tools pierce complex problems with uninhibited imagination.”

Lovins is chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute. 

“Before they get their creative trickles worn down and their boldness beaten out of them; before they lose their beginner’s mind, they can help design and build new or retrofit existing buildings, our landscapes, our food systems, our water and waste systems,” he said of today’s college student.

“They will do better and learn more if they help lead our next wave of system wide improvements than if they just study how we have always done things before,” he said. 

UNC system president Tom Ross said universities have the responsibility to educate and train those who will help solve the state’s and the world’s pressing environmental challenges related to protecting the environment and water supply, and challenges meeting growing energy demands. 

“We have to face these challenges and we have to do it now,” he said. “As a public university, the University of North Carolina has both the opportunity and the responsibility to educate our 220,000 students and our nearly 50,000 employees on the principles and practices of sustainability. That’s our job; that’s our responsibility.”

The UNC system spends $226 million a year on energy. By focusing on efficient building design, such as those found in the LEED-certified buildings on the UNC campuses, and improving lighting and heating and air conditioning controls and retrofitting buildings that were energy inefficient, the 17-campus system avoided $63 million in energy costs in the last fiscal year. The goal is to save more than $1 billion in energy costs during the next 20 years.