U-M’s roots in sustainability highlighted in 2016 report

February 20, 2017
Dana Elger, 734-936-5190, delger@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—For more than 150 years, sustainability has been infused into the practices and teachings at the University of Michigan as highlighted in the 2016 Sustainability Progress Report.

The report shares campuswide sustainability achievements in the areas of education, research and campus engagement and operations, and includes a timeline of notable sustainability milestones throughout U-M history.

From the planting of Elm trees on the Diag in 1857 by history professor Andrew Dickson White to the 1970 environmental teach-in that served as the prototype of the first national Earth Day, U-M continues to lead in sustainability education, research and impact.

“U-M’s aspirations in sustainability and environmental research and education reflect our excellence and ethos as a 200-year-old public university,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “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.”

The report also includes an update on the university’s campus sustainability goals in the areas of climate, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness and engagement.

Last year, the U-M Board of Regents approved the creation of a new school to focus on global sustainability challenges at the intersection of environment and society—marking another sustainability milestone in U-M history. Expected to open this fall, the School for Environment and Sustainability will include the current School of Natural Resources and Environment faculty, build on that school’s strengths, have a broader mission and be structured to engage faculty from across the university.

U-M sustainability experts conducted more than $65.6 million in research in fiscal year 2016. Highlights of sustainability research—in the areas of water, climate and communities—include projects to create safer fertilizers for agricultural crops, establish renewable-energy alternatives to fossil fuels, and conduct the world’s largest simultaneous sampling of aquatic plastic debris pollution on the Great Lakes.

Using environmental metrics, the university also tracks the impact of its operations toward long-range sustainability goals.

In 2015, the university invested $100 million toward efforts to accelerate progress in the areas of waste reduction, greenhouse gas reduction and campus sustainability culture.

Significant work is under way, including:

Conversion of Michigan Stadium to a zero-waste facility by the 2017 season.

Creation of a zero-waste program on campus including updated composting and recycling capabilities and signage to reduce the amount of waste generated.

Expansion of the university’s energy management program to more campus buildings.

Launch of the Sustainable Living Experience at the Oxford Houses student residence to explore ways to grow the culture of sustainability on campus and foster future leaders in sustainability.

View 2016 Sustainability Progress Report: reports.sustainability.umich.edu

2025 campus sustainability goals status:

  • Goal: Reduce U-M greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 2006 levels.
    Status: Slight reduction; 20 percent decrease needed.
  • Goal: Decrease vehicle carbon output per passenger trip by 30 percent below 2006 levels.
    Status: On track. Reduced vehicle carbon output by 15 percent per passenger trip.
  • Goal: Reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent below 2006 levels.
    Status: Levels increased; 44 percent decrease needed.
  • Goal: Protect the Huron River through stormwater-control strategies and reduce chemical applications to campus landscapes by 40 percent below 2006 levels.
    Status: On track. Reduced chemical application by 34 percent.
  • Goal: Purchase 20 percent of U-M food from local and sustainable sources by 2025.
    Status: On track. Currently purchasing 12 percent of U-M food from local and sustainable sources.


M planet blue: the sustainable differenceU-M Sustainability fosters a more sustainable world through collaborations across campus and beyond aimed at educating students, generating new knowledge, and minimizing our environmental footprint. Learn more at sustainability.umich.edu.