University goes for gold in sustainability

Monday, February 20, 2017 - 7:01pm

The School of Natural Resources and the Environment is housed in the Dana Building.

The School of Natural Resources and the Environment is housed in the Dana Building. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

 

The University of Michigan’s sustainability efforts have recently garnered support and action in four areas outlined in the 2016 University sustainability progress report: climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community engagement. 

Planet Blue, the University’s collaborative effort to further sustainability education, research and operations, is striving to meet the University’s sustainability goals for 2025, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, purchasing food from local and sustainable sources and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.

The sustainability report demonstrates progress in almost all the 2025 goals. Greenhouse gas emissions have decreased to 5 percent below the 2006 levels. Still, there has been no progress in waste reduction, which the University aims to reduce to 40 percent below 2006 levels. Waste levels have instead increased by 4 percent.

In University President Mark Schlissel’s letter included in the report, he thanked students, faculty and community members for their continuous support of Planet Blue.

“I am proud of our many accomplishments and am excited by the opportunities ahead,” he wrote. “Your dedication to U-M, our students, and the future of our world is an inspiration to our entire community.”

As one of the 80 international institutions that received a gold rating from the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, the University was recognized as a leading university in environmental sustainability and as an example for other universities around the world.

The plans for the University’s campus-wide environmental progress efforts began long before 2015, when Schlissel allocated $100 million to the sustainability initiative, which included retooling the Central Power Plant to register a 20-percent decrease in greenhouse emissions.

Another large change from this past year was the approval of the new School for Environment and Sustainability, which is expected to open in the fall of 2017, replacing the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Former University Provost Martha Pollack said in an October interview the University hoped to create a more connected field to spur innovation.

“The idea of the new school is to think of new ways to bring these people together, new ways to involve students, really whole new ways to do education and research in this topic,” she said.

Schlissel said he aims for improvement in the future.

“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,” Schlissel wrote.