University invests in major campus sustainability efforts


The University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus is about to get a whole lot “greener” following significant investments toward more sustainable campus operations.

Several of the new efforts being implemented follow the recommendations of committees — comprising faculty, staff and students — charged last fall by the president to review the university’s progress in the areas of waste reduction, greenhouse gas reduction and campus sustainability culture.

Recommended efforts include expansion of the food waste composting program; creation of an investment fund to support renewable energy demonstration projects on campus; extending of the university’s energy conservation program to include the U-M Health System, athletics and student housing facilities; and enhancing sustainability behavior change and engagement programs.

In addition, the athletic department will work with campus experts to design a Zero Waste program for Michigan Stadium, and will select one game next year to test the prototype of a Zero Waste game day. The test will help in the design of a long-term sustainable system.

The new initiatives build on existing sustainability efforts, and support the university’s goals focused on climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness and action.

The university will invest nearly $100 million to implement the selected committee recommendations and the additional sustainability projects.

“I am extremely grateful to the nearly 50 committee members for their thorough, thoughtful and creative ideas on how to make progress on our campus goals,” President Mark Schlissel said at his annual Leadership Breakfast on Friday.

“Environmental sustainability has been one of our most important campuswide efforts in recent years.”

Broadening the university’s successful energy conservation program in athletics, residence halls and the health system facilities will help to reduce overall energy demand. However, the project with the greatest anticipated impact on the reduction of greenhouse gases is the installation of additional gas turbine capabilities at the Central Power Plant.

First constructed in 1915, the Central Power Plant was converted to operate more efficiently by shifting from burning coal to natural gas in the 1960s. The change to a cogeneration plant increased the Central Power Plant’s efficiency to 70-80 percent.

The project will require Board of Regents approval to increase the capacity of the plant to generate electricity and heat at a more efficient rate, and reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

The additional capacity would lower the university’s carbon footprint by reducing total green house gas emissions by up to 145,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to removing more than 30,000 passenger vehicles from the road.

“The turbine investment is important, but we recognize it is only one step,” Schlissel said.

“Committee recommendations related to renewable energy such as solar, wind, landfill gas, and geothermal are more complicated, and we are working through many of those issues in preparation for future investments.”

To reduce landfill waste, the university will standardize recycling bins; signage and messaging across campus; enhance and expand composting programs; increase “green purchasing”; and embark on a major study on waste management in the health system, which generates nearly half the total waste on campus, to identify opportunities to reduce its unique waste stream.

To increase the involvement of students, faculty and staff, the university will enhance its community engagement and behavior programs, such as the Planet Blue Ambassador, Student Leaders and Student Innovation programs; the Sustainable Food Program; and the Sustainability Cultural Indicators survey program that tracks progress and informs operational improvements.

Moving forward, the president asked that the committees of faculty, staff and students remain engaged to assist as the institution rolls out the changes, makes progress on goals and further analyzes their recommendations.

Aside from the committee recommendations, the university also is exploring new possibilities for transportation in Ann Arbor including how it can better connect North and Central campuses, and making improvements in storm water management on campus.



  1. Steve Krause
    on October 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

    This is great news! Thank you President Schlissel and the entire university staff and its directors for your work in sustainability and the environment and for acting as true leaders in this critical area.

    Best regards,
    Steve Krause
    Troy, Michigan

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