After recycling more than 3,600 tons of waste material last year, the University was recognized for its efforts in environmental protection by the National Recycling Coalition yesterday.

The University was recognized for being a forerunner in waste management. While most institutions recycle only 18 to 20 percent of their waste, 30 percent of the University”s waste is recycled at the Material Recovery Facility operated by the city of Ann Arbor. The University is also home to the largest fleet of alternative energy vehicles.

“We”re a leader in a lot of areas, but there is still room to improve and gain more,” said Terry Alexander, the University director of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health.

The main focus of OSEH is to better the health and safety of the University community and raise the amount of environmental stewardship through the implementation of earth-friendly initiatives.

When Alexander reported on OSEH”s progress in 2001 at the University Board of Regents meet last month, he said the regents showed only support for the program.

“OSEH encourages the administration to look at ways to save nonrenewable resources. We should always be looking at creative new ways to make a positive impact,” said Regent Olivia Maynard (D-Goodrich). “The University needs to continue to do all that it can to assist in environmental issues. It”s really important.”

The University implemented programs to increase environmental stewardship almost a decade ago, Alexander said. Some programs, however, are just recently receiving recognition. One such program includes the elimination of mercury from the University”s health system.

“It goes in cycles. Programs might not receive a lot of attention but are being done all the time,” Alexander said.

Student groups, including the Michigan Student Assembly and Residence Hall Association, also work with OSEH to raise awareness across the campus and to gain students” views on environmental issues.

This semester, residence halls will be participating in Ecolympics, a competition that rewards students for conserving energy and water and reducing waste.

“We can”t tell students they have to do it,” Alexander said. “There”s been a good response from students. If we get their attention and participation, we can get the rest of the University involved.”

The University”s environmental stewardship program will also be launching a new website within the next month.

“The website will be right off the University”s page. It will have a much nicer format and more education materials,” Alexander said.

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