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ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan continues to show immense growth and engagement in sustainability education, research and operations, as shown in the 2013 Sustainability Progress Report released this week.
In 2013, more than 30 students declared sustainability as a minor, the Planet Blue Ambassador Program grew to 1,300-plus dedicated individuals, and the university awarded more than $3.8 million in funding for U-M Water Center projects focused on Great Lakes restoration efforts.
"Each year, the university continues to make great strides in the area of sustainability in our research, education and operations," said Don Scavia, special counsel to the U-M president on sustainability and director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.
"The efforts of our students, faculty, staff and alumni position the university as the university with the capability to create fresh approaches and new leaders equipped with the ability to help shape the future of our world."
As highlighted in the report, U-M students are working on a range of projects from addressing access to clean water and sustainable systems in rural villages to working locally to inventory greenhouse gases emissions in Detroit.
New collaborations between faculty, under the Third Century Initiative and MCubed, are leading to more sustainability-related research at U-M. Such projects include examining the human and environmental impacts of new emerging technologies used to address water infrastructure challenges, and finding solutions to energy, water and food challenges in resource-constrained environments. Other work occurring under the areas of water, livable communities and climate include alternative energy, hydraulic fracturing, climate change adaptation and sustainable systems.
"Our operations are becoming 'greener' as units become more active in the Planet Blue initiative and engage in more sustainable practices that support the university's commitment to sustainability," Scavia said.
Last year, more than 80 offices participated in the Sustainable Workplace Program. The university continued to reduce energy consumption by an average of 8 percent in general fund buildings and implemented trayless dining in seven of the eight dining halls.
Using environmental metrics, the university tracks the impact of its operations and measures progress toward long-range goals focused on climate, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness. As announced by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman in 2011, the 2025 goals support the university's broader overall commitment to sustainability, known as Planet Blue.
Operations data in the report shows:
More needs to be done to reduce emission levels, which rose slightly.
Chemical applications were reduced on campus through sustainable landscape management practices.
More sustainably produced foods were utilized and made available for purchase on campus.
More needs to be done to reduce the total volume of solid waste, which rose slightly.