The University’s Planet Blue Ambassador program, an online sustainability initiative, received an upgrade this past month as new improvements were made to its user interface.
PBA launched in 2013 as part of former University President Mary Sue Coleman’s campus-wide sustainability goals. The program aims to engage faculty, staff and students in campus sustainability through an online platform.
Program Coordinator Nicole Berg said the program has received positive feedback since the program’s launch.
“There is a lot of support from the University, and there’s been great participation in the programs from people that are passionate all across the university,” Berg said. “It’s been great getting input from across the University and a broad spectrum of stakeholders.”
The PBA 2.0 upgrade allows users to make pledges and track the success of their goals as well as includes personalized information about each user’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, waste, dollars saved and more.
Berg said the program currently has about 2,000 active and certified ambassadors, 700 of whom are students.
Program Assistant Ryan Gourley, program assistant for the Planet Blue Ambassador Program, said an sustainability should be embedded in everyday life.
“Right now in society, sustainability is often treated as this separate issue like it’s its own field,” Gourley said. “Really, in an ideal world, sustainability undergirds everything. There’s no human activity that should occur without an eye toward sustainability. It is necessary for both the survival of our species and the continued well-being of the planet.”
Berg said University-wide involvement in energy, food, water, waste and community sustainability is critical.
“When you get this sort of grassroots involvement and input is really where you’re going to see the real difference made,” Berg said. “We have this expertise in our research, and our training and operations in sustainability is something that everyone can get involved in, and we can make a real impact at the University.”
“As a public institution, U-M must be part of our society’s response to sustainability challenges on local to global scales,” he wrote. “This requires meaningful commitments at both institutional and individual levels. Our Planet Blue initiative unifies all of U-M’s sustainability work – spanning research, education and campus life.”
In November, Schlissel called for a review of the University’s sustainability goals, the first round of which were scheduled to for completion by 2025.
The University has seen mixed results in making progress on the goals, which include reducing waste, carbon emissions and transportation emissions.
The new PBA website, which is funded through the Office of the Provost and administered by the Graham Sustainability Institute, also includes team-based activities for students to compete with their friends.
Gourley said he hopes the program will eventually become part of the campus climate.
“I would measure the success of this program being at a point that would render it obsolete,” Gourley said. “We won’t need a program like this because people just automatically choose the sustainable option.”