The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus has met two 2025 Sustainability Goals ahead of schedule. Compared to 2006 greenhouse gas emission levels, the Ann Arbor campus successfully decreased its emissions by 25% as of 2022 and has applied 40% fewer chemicals to campus landscapes since 2019, both of which were completed three years earlier than planned.
The early completion of the greenhouse gas emissions and chemical usage reduction goals suggests progress toward the University’s commitment to net-zero greenhouse emissions. The remaining 2025 Sustainability Goals yet to be achieved include decreasing vehicle carbon output, reducing waste, purchasing from sustainable food sources and engaging the community on sustainability issues.
Katrina Folsom, marketing communications specialist for the Office of Campus Sustainability, acknowledged in an email to The Michigan Daily that, despite the recent progress, she believes the University’s climate action work is far from over.
“We’re very pleased, though with the acknowledgment that climate action work is more important than ever,” Folsom wrote. “So while the Ann Arbor campus met (two of) its goals … we’re also excited about what’s next.”
LSA junior Jacob Sendra, vice president of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, told The Daily he applauds the actions the University has taken, but added that he feels their goals lack ambition considering the severity of the climate crisis.
“While we’re happy that the work of previous organizations like the Climate Action Movement have caused the University to start to take action, we believe that more decisive action is needed now to meet the urgency of (the climate) crisis,” Sendra said. “While we’re happy that they’ve been hitting these goals they said, we think that the goals are not ambitious enough.”
Zackariah Farah, a spokesperson of Ann Arbor for Public Power, praised the University’s decrease in chemical usage, but told The Daily he was more skeptical about its progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m really happy to hear about the reduction in the use of chemicals (in) landscaping, that seems like a very real accomplishment,” Farah said. “In terms of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions … I think that the University is not significantly altering the way that they conduct their business. They’re not significantly investing in renewable energy, not reducing energy use as much as they should be, but they’re still claiming that they’re meeting their goals.”
Farah also expressed concern about the portrayal of the University’s emissions data. He highlighted how, despite the overall decrease in emissions, Scope 1 emissions — emissions in direct control of the University — have increased since 2021.
“Scope 1 (emissions) actually went up from 2021, and I don’t think now’s the time to be patting ourselves on the back when we’re actually producing more emissions right here on campus,” Farah said. “What they’re relying on to achieve these reductions on paper is a reduction in Scope 2 emissions … I think that they should not be displaying their emissions reductions in this way.”
Folsom explained how emissions increased after the University resumed full operations in 2021, but also emphasized the declining trend in total emissions.
“As University operations picked back up following the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scope 1 emissions increased due to normal building energy usage, among other factors,” Folsom wrote. “Importantly, total U-M emissions are decreasing, even as total university square footage has increased.”
Environmental and Sustainability graduate student Eric Oesterling, co-president of Energy Club at Ross, spoke with The Daily about the University’s management of energy usage. He said he wants to call for more detailed public information about energy usage so the U-M community can change their behaviors accordingly.
“Being able to move towards clearly seeing the data around energy usage is big — to be able to understand where our improvements are able to be made,” Oesterling said. “I think there (are) probably a lot of behavioral change opportunities, as far as how students and staff and faculty utilize the buildings on campus in a way that’s very energy efficient that we just don’t know about.”
Folsom specified how the University plans to provide more detailed information to the U-M community about their energy usage.
“Going forward, sustainability staff intend(s) to expand the dashboard to enable users to view more specific data,” Folsom wrote. “Newer buildings like the forthcoming Central Campus residence hall will have advanced building controls and sub-metering that will allow enhanced granularity with regard to energy use throughout the buildings.”
Though Sendra said he sees hope for the University’s future sustainability goals, he emphasized the importance of further involving students when making important climate-related decisions.
“We’re pretty optimistic with this new administration … Just greater accountability measures and open dialogue with student groups about even how to form those accountability measures going forward,” Sendra said. “I think just making sure that students get a seat at the table when we’re making these decisions (is important).”
Daily News Reporter Shao Hsuan Wu can be reached at email@example.com.