Five years after becoming the fourth campus in the UNC System, UNC Charlotte participated in the first Earth Day in April 1970. Supporters included founder Bonnie Cone, who then served as the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs.

External recognition for environmental performance of the campus dates back to 1994 with a merit award from the North Carolina Recycling Association. Today the campus regularly earns awards for its recycling efforts, vehicle fleets, groundskeeping, green buildings, bicycle facilities, energy conservation and for campus-wide efforts recognized by Princeton Review, AASHE and APPA. A timeline of external awards can be found here.

In 2009, the University of North Carolina established a Sustainability Policy covering all campuses. In response, UNC Charlotte hired a sustainability coordinator and an energy manager in Facilities Management. Former Chancellor Philip Dubois signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, setting a goal for carbon neutrality by 2050. The University developed a Campus Sustainability Plan in 2010 and a Climate Action Plan in 2012. In 2013, the Office of Sustainability was established along with the hiring of the first University sustainability officer.

For current guidance about campus sustainability, see the Priorities and Initiatives page.