Guyer honored for environmental efforts

Regina Guyer, associate director of the IDEAS Center at UNC Charlotte, has been named Sustain Charlotte’s Outstanding Educator for 2013.

The award was given last month during Sustain Charlotte’s second Community Sustainability Awards ceremony, which honored leaders in both public and private sectors who have made exemplary efforts this year toward advancing the organization’s “Charlotte 2030: A Sustainable Vision for Our Region” outlook.

Sustain Charlotte is a nonprofit organization launched in 2010 to educate and encourage the public to increase Charlotte’s sustainability practices.

According to the 2011 Green Cities Index, a study that examined the 27 largest cities in North America, Charlotte ranks below average in air quality, carbon emissions, energy, buildings, transportation and environmental governance.

“It demonstrates that our challenges are diverse,” said Shannon Binns, founder and director of Sustain Charlotte.

To further the city’s sustainability efforts, the organization works to create collaborations between citizens, nonprofits, businesses, government agencies and academic institutions.

Guyer has spent years educating students of all ages on the changes needed to sustain the environment for future generations, often through collaborations with businesses and agencies.

Her earlier career involved teaching courses at UNCC on environmental engineering, but today, Guyer serves as associate director of the Infrastructure, Design, Environment and Sustainability Center – the IDEAS Center – a research institute affiliated with the William States Lee College of Engineering.

The IDEAS Center draws from the expertise of numerous academic disciplines at UNCC to focus on building structures that promote a more sustainable relationship between humans and the environment.

One example includes a partnership among 20 municipalities, including Mecklenburg County, that examines issues surrounding the region’s stormwater, now and in the future.

Part of that collaboration includes educating the public on why it’s a valid concern to investigate.

“The average person takes so much for granted of our water – to turn it on and expect it to go away when we flush it or let it down the drain,” said Guyer. “They really don’t have that appreciation of the water quality that we gain from a water treatment facility.”

Guyer has worked for years as an environmental advocate, through educating K-12 students into making better choices for the environment, and by mentoring college students who intern and volunteer at local businesses and municipalities through the Environmental Assistance Office, an offshoot of the IDEAS Center.

EAO, considered a resource for the community, focuses its projects on pollution prevention and assists businesses and agencies, at the same time giving students hands-on experience in researching today’s environmental issues.

Guyer’s efforts, said Binns, spread awareness and help make Sustain Charlotte’s “Charlotte 2030: A Sustainable Vision for Our Region” plan a viable reality.

“She has inspired so many young people to care about our impact on our environment, and devote their careers to reducing that impact,” said Binns.

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