University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

September 24, 2017

U-M's roots in sustainability highlighted in 2016 Progress Report

February 20, 2017

U-M's roots in sustainability highlighted in 2016 Progress Report

For more than 150 years, sustainability has been infused into the practices and teachings at the University of Michigan as highlighted in the 2016 Sustainability Progress Report.

The report shares campuswide sustainability achievements in the areas of education, research, and campus engagement and operations, and includes a timeline of notable sustainability milestones throughout U-M history.

From the planting of elm trees on the Diag in 1857 by history professor Andrew Dickson White to the 1970 environmental teach–in that served as the prototype of the first national Earth Day, U-M continues to lead in sustainability education, research and impact.

"U-M's aspirations in sustainability and environmental research and education reflect our excellence and ethos as a 200-year-old public university," President Mark Schlissel says.

"As we celebrate U-M's bicentennial, we are proud to honor the accomplishments of our faculty, students, staff and supporters who have helped us achieve at the highest levels — while also examining our potential for even greater achievements."

The report also includes an update on the university's campus sustainability goals in the areas of climate, waste prevention, healthy environments, and community awareness and engagement.

Last year, the Board of Regents approved the creation of a new school to focus on global sustainability challenges at the intersection of environment and society —marking another sustainability milestone in U-M history.

Expected to open in the fall, the School for Environment and Sustainability will include the current School of Natural Resources and Environment faculty, build on that school's strengths, have a broader mission and be structured to engage faculty from across the university.

U-M sustainability experts conducted more than $65.6 million in research in fiscal year 2016. Highlights of sustainability research — in the areas of water, climate and communities — include projects to create safer fertilizers for agricultural crops, renewable-energy alternatives to fossil fuels, and conducting the world's largest simultaneous sampling of aquatic plastic debris pollution on the Great Lakes. 

Using environmental metrics, the university also tracks the impact of its operations toward long-range sustainability goals.

In 2015, the university invested $100 million toward efforts to accelerate progress in the areas of waste reduction, greenhouse gas reduction and campus sustainability culture. Significant work is underway, including:

• Conversion of Michigan Stadium to a zero-waste facility by the 2017 season.

• Creation of a Zero Waste program on campus including updated composting and recycling capabilities and signage to reduce the amount of waste generated.

• Expansion of the university's energy management program to more campus buildings.

• Launch of the Sustainable Living Experience at Oxford Houses to explore ways to grow the culture of sustainability on campus and foster future leaders in sustainability.