By Mary Hannahan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 10, 2011
A recent hot topic of discussion on campus, the University’s environmental sustainability initiatives were on the agenda of the leading faculty governing body yesterday.
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Don Scavia, director of the University’s Graham Sustainability Institute, reiterated the University’s new goals for sustainability in academics, energy systems and dining halls in the meeting before the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.
University President Mary Sue Coleman announced the University’s 14-year plan for sustainability last month. The initiative includes the $14 million purchase of seven hybrid buses and the installation of solar panels on North Campus. The new efforts continue a push for more sustainability projects on campus that began in 2009.
“It was two years ago yesterday (that) Mary Sue Coleman kicked off this initiative and focused us on education research and operations and engagement across the board in sustainability,” Scavia said.
Scavia discussed the University’s plan to work with DTE to install solar panel fields on North Campus to increase energy efficiency. The University has also adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for all new construction sites on campus.
Additionally, the University aims to have 20 percent of the food it purchases come from sustainable sources — defined by the University as food produced within 250 miles of the campus — by 2025.
However, SACUA member Rachel Goldman, a professor of engineering and physics, said the issue of food packaging is still ignored on campus. She asked if packaging would have to be manufactured in the United States to be considered sustainable — a question to which Scavia did not have an answer.
“I think the packaging is probably more harmful to the environment than the food itself,” Goldman said.
Two years ago, the University launched a course called Sustainability on Campus that involves the development of sustainability initiatives on campus. Students in the class worked on projects such as implementing trayless dining in the residence halls, creating a garden on campus and producing a pamphlet called “How to Be a Green Wolverine,” which is sent to incoming freshmen, according to Scavia. The University plans to instate a trayless policy in new and updated dining halls, as part of the sustainability goals.
Besides introducing sustainability in course, Scavia said the University’s sustainability efforts are also shown in its academic offerings. Of the roughly 640 courses offered at the University, about 200 of them are directly related to sustainability or focus on issues that pertain to sustainability. To get even more students involved in the efforts, the College of Literature, Science and the Arts introduced a minor in sustainability this year.
Planet Blue’s efforts have saved 12 percent in energy savings in 68 campus buildings, which equates to $4 million and 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide, according to Scavia.
The University’s long-term goal is to reach carbon neutrality, though it is unclear when that can be achieved, Scavia said. Meanwhile, the University is striving to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent and reduce its waste tonnage by 40 percent in the next 14 years.
SACUA member Ed Rothman, a professor of statistics, suggested that technologies should play a larger role in sustainability efforts on campus. He gave the examples of software that shuts off inactive machines and sensors that turn lights off when an area is not in use.
“There are opportunities for us to find ways of facilitating sustainability by developing technologies that would make these things work better for everyone,” Rothman said.