The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recently awarded U-M a Gold rating in recognition of universitywide climate action and sustainability work.
The organization’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System measures and encourages sustainability across participating colleges and universities. Its methodology covers academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration.
“This rating recognizes U-M’s commitment to our planet, with an acknowledgment that our most promising efforts lay ahead,” President Santa J. Ono said. “We’re proud to partner with AASHE and so many like-minded organizations in our effort to meaningfully address the climate emergency.
“As U-M continues to elevate sustainability as an institutional priority, we look forward to sharing our successes, learning from other leaders and advancing our collective work in the years to come.”
U-M earned 73.84 points — more than four higher than its previous submission, due in large part to new sustainable investing strategies and renewable power purchase agreements.
More than 900 participating institutions from 40 countries take part in the STARS program, including 137 that hold Gold ratings and 12 that hold Platinum ratings. All participating Big Ten institutions hold Gold or Silver ratings.
The university’s submission involved the collaboration of several campus units, including the Office of Campus Sustainability and the Graham Sustainability Institute.
“U-M has greatly increased its commitment to climate action over the last five years,” said Drew Horning, interim associate vice president for campus sustainability. “The actions we’re beginning to implement — such as geothermal and solar energy — will improve our future STARS scores, and far more importantly, will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and their associated impact on our climate.”
The STARS rating complements a recent ranking by the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, which listed U-M as eighth in renewable power use among institutes of higher education.
Aside from submitting information to STARS, U-M participates within AASHE to share and learn best practices across academics, operations and leadership. U-M also is an active member and co-founder of the Midwest Climate Collaborative and serves as the lead institution of the University Climate Change Coalition.
Carbon neutrality updates
Last month, U-M issued a call for proposals to build 25 megawatts of solar projects across the university. U-M collaborated in this effort with the city of Ann Arbor, which launched a parallel request for proposals.
U-M announced that the newly unveiled South Fifth Street residential complex will include a number of features that complement carbon neutrality work, including geothermal exchange heating and cooling systems for the dining hall, all-electric cooking equipment and rooftop solar installations.
Last year, U-M announced the purchase of four battery-electric buses from New Flyer as an initial step toward decarbonizing the university’s vehicle fleet. Though U-M expected to receive the e-buses this spring, New Flyer recently issued a safety-related recall, with an update to come.