With a rise in severe storms, increased environmentally-induced diseases and a rise in endangered species, global climate change continues to be a major worldwide concern.
The University hopes to alleviate the harmful effects of global climate change by implementing numerous sustainability efforts on campus, as outlined in its 2011 Annual Sustainability Report, released yesterday. In the report — which details data collected from July 1 through June 30 for fiscal years 2004-2011 — the University explains its sustainability goals and evaluates its successes thus far.
Following the completion of the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment, University President Mary Sue Coleman announced on Sept. 27 that the University was prepared to begin a set of sustainability goals focused on four “operational” preservation topics — climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness.
The University’s climate action sector has implemented programs geared toward energy conservation, reduced carbon and renewable energy technologies and “alternative” University transportation options, the report states. In order to continue developing these initatives, there will be a renewed focus on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and University transportation energy demand.
The report indicated that energy use on campus has decreased by 21 percent since fiscal year 2004, which can largely be attributed to the involvement of University buildings in sustainable efforts, like Planet Blue Operations. According to the report, the Chrysler Center on North Campus reduced energy use by 30 percent, the Institute for Social Research also saw a 30-percent decrease and Angell Hall had a reduction of 18 percent.
Despite these successes, total greenhouse gas emissions increased 7.5 percent from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011. The report attributed this change to a population increase and greater electricity needs due to construction of University buildings during the period.
The report added that the University expects to decrease fuel use by 30 percent by integrating biodiesel buses and additional hybrid sedans to complement the transportation systems’ ethanol and electric vehicles.
Sustainable efforts for waste prevention are also being currently being developed for the University. The report indicated that University programs such as the Student Move Out program, which has produced more than 140 tons of donations for local charities, have assisted with the green movement on campus.
Due to these efforts, from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011, there has been a decrease of approximately 3 percent in total waste production and an approximate 4 percent decrease in annual trash disposal, according to the report.
The healthy environments theme area of the report describes the University’s plans to preserve local habitats and water resources while aiding in sustainable food “sourcing.” According to the report, the student-supported program “Go Blue, Eat Local” contributes to sustainability on campus by purchasing locally grown food for dining hall meals.
“By purchasing locally produced food, U-M can support Michigan’s economy while preserving prime agricultural land,” the report states. “Local produce tends to minimize transportation and processing, and is sold sooner after harvest maximizing freshness, flavor and nutrient value.”
The report added that the University’s efforts to pursue healthy environment initiatives aided in the preservation of endangered peregrine falcons.
“A pair of endangered peregrine falcons who have been seen on campus since 2006 gave birth for the first time after taking up residence in a nesting box built by a local Eagle Scout that U-M Staff located on the roof of the University Hospital,” the report states.
Water conservation measures are also in place due to increased water use in recent years. The University’s water consumption increased by 6.2 percent during fiscal year 2010, but decreased by 7.1 percent from fiscal year 2004, according to the report.
The University uses irrigation technology, including the computerized irrigation system Maxicom, to lessen water consumption, which has succeeded in decreasing water use by 22 million gallons annually on Central and North Campuses.
The University also aims to collaborate with the campus community and Ann Arbor residents through developing programs that promote community awareness. The report describes efforts geared toward increased engagement, such as the Planet Blue Ambassador Program, that connects students, faculty and staff in sustainability movements around campus.
“Promoting the type of societal change required to instill sustainability related values is an extremely challenging task,” the report states. “By providing education and opportunity, we can initiate a culture shift where sustainable choices become a way of life and are no longer looked upon as additional responsibility or burden.”