The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus achieved two of its 2025 sustainability goals in 2022, according to an annual Planet Blue fact sheet.
It reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from its 2006 benchmark — three years ahead of schedule — and exceeded its goal of applying 40% less chemicals to campus landscapes, compared with 2006, for the fourth consecutive year.
The emissions reduction provides a solid foundation for the university’s carbon neutrality commitments, which were established in 2021 and span the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, Michigan Medicine and Athletics.
The remaining 2025 goals pertain to fuel efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable food purchases, and broader awareness and engagement around sustainability topics. The goals were established in 2011.
“We’re very pleased to have met two of the Ann Arbor campus’ 2025 sustainability goals ahead of schedule,” said Andy Berki, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability. “There’s also impressive momentum on universitywide climate action initiatives, including geo-exchange heating and cooling systems, carbon-based building standards, fleet electrification and more.”
- The university launched a revolving energy fund — supporting energy conservation projects across all campuses and auxiliary units — and completed 19 LED lighting upgrade projects.
- The Ann Arbor campus placed first in the large-campus division for zero waste in the national Campus Race to Zero Waste competition, reflecting significant investments in waste-reduction infrastructure, education and engagement.
- The Planet Blue Ambassador program, through which more than 8,000 faculty, staff and students engage in sustainability on campus and lead by personal action, expanded to UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint.
These initiatives and others are outlined in the Fiscal Year 2022 Sustainability Goal Fact Sheet.
2025 Ann Arbor sustainability goals and progress
Data in the fact sheet show the following movement toward the 2025 sustainability goals:
Goal: Cut U-M greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 2006 baseline.
Status: Surpassed goal with a 28% reduction in emissions.
A suite of efforts designed to meet this goal came to fruition in FY ’22, enabling the Ann Arbor campus to meet this goal three years early. They include:
- Purchasing 150,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy credits, representing electricity produced by new Michigan-based DTE Energy wind parks.
- A new highly efficient turbine at U-M’s Central Power Plant began operating in January 2022.
- U-M continued its energy conservation efforts, which have produced a 22% reduction in energy consumption in general fund buildings despite a 20% increase in building area since 2006.
Concurrently, efforts toward U-M’s carbon neutrality commitments are underway. The university is planning extensive geo-exchange heating and cooling systems, working to secure all purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and has established maximum carbon-based standards for all new construction and major renovation projects costing more than $10 million.
These and other initiatives are described in the inaugural Climate Action Report.
Goal: Decrease vehicle carbon output on passenger trips by 30% from the 2006 baseline.
Status: No reduction in FY ’22 due to pandemic impact.
Progress on this goal has been slowed by ongoing pandemic impacts. Fuel efficiency, measured per passenger trip, declined because ridership remained 24% lower than in FY ’20.
However, the university took steps toward its commitment to decarbonize the U-M vehicle fleet by 2040. Logistics, Transportation & Parking purchased four electric buses for the Ann Arbor campus with delivery expected this summer, opened a new transportation center with electric-vehicle maintenance capacity, and updated infrastructure to prepare for the installation of new electric-vehicle chargers for campus users.
Goal: Shrink the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40% from the 2006 baseline.
Status: Reduced waste levels by 13%.
Compost expansion efforts continued, bringing the number of buildings with compost service to 155 and the total bin count to 1,100. Approximately one-third of U-M’s waste can be composted, so increased compost infrastructure and community involvement — through programs such as zero-waste events and Adopt a Compost Bin — is expected to continue improving the amount of waste the Ann Arbor campus diverts from landfills.
Goal: Protect the Huron River through stormwater-control strategies and apply 40% less chemicals to campus landscapes from the 2006 baseline.
Status: Surpassed the goal with a 45% reduction in chemical applications.
Grounds Services and other units continued to minimize the use of fertilizer and landscape chemicals. Other efforts include installing native plant gardens. These initiatives helped the Ann Arbor campus recently achieve Bee Campus USA certification, reflecting the university’s commitment to protecting and expanding pollinator habitat.
Goal: Invest in programs to educate our community, track behavior and report progress over time toward a campuswide ethic of sustainability.
Status: Sustainability engagement programs and student groups are spurring growing involvement in sustainability at U-M. For example:
- The Student Sustainability Coalition conducted the inaugural Student Sustainability Leaders Summit to connect student leaders and inspire action by individuals, organizations and the institution.
- The U-M Sustainable Food Program and the Campus Farm expanded the on-campus Farm Stand, serving more than 1,000 unique customers in a single fall season.
- The Zero Waste Stadium Program, which works to reduce waste and build a culture of sustainability by composting and recycling at football games, diverted 76 tons of waste from the landfill, including donating four tons of food to Food Gatherers.
- The Excellence in Sustainability Honors Cord Program admitted 281 graduating students, who wore student-made, naturally dyed Michigan wool cords at graduation.
- Student cultural organizers, a new program of Student Life Sustainability, connected members of the arts and sustainability communities to produce events, installations and multimedia storytelling to center joy and self-reflection in the sustainability movement at U-M.
Universitywide climate action
U-M is on pace to reduce Scope 1 emissions from campus sources and Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity by 50% by 2025, which exceeds United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance that calls for a 45% reduction by 2030.
As U-M pursues universitywide carbon neutrality, certain global supply chain issues have prompted delays in implementation — particularly toward vehicle fleet electrification and LED lighting efforts.
In December 2022, the U-M Office of Investments unveiled that it had invested $420 million in sustainable energy over the past two years. Avoided greenhouse gas emissions from U-M investments in 2023 are on track to exceed Ann Arbor campus emissions. The endowment is expected to reduce portfolio emissions by more than half by 2030.
In November 2022, U-M assumed leadership of the University Climate Change Coalition, which convenes 23 leading North American universities working toward climate action — on campus, in communities and globally.
The university also announced a partnership with Delta Air Lines to help spur the availability and widespread adoption of sustainable aviation fuel.