The University of Michigan shows immense growth and engagement in sustainability education, research, and operations, according to the 2012 Sustainability Progress Report.
Funding for sustainability research at U-M has increased by 200 percent since 2003, signaling the growing recognition and impact of this area of study. Scholars at U-M are examining such far-ranging issues as ensuring safe, sustainable food and water sources to understanding what happens in the brain that encourages us to consume more than we need.
“Our work is equally local and global,” says U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “As we approach our bicentennial as a university in 2017, we understand our legacy as a leader in reviving Michigan’s Great Lakes and forests, integrating environment and business in our curriculum, and protecting vital systems throughout the world.”
The interactive digital 2012 Sustainability Progress Report combines video, animation, and data to showcase the University’s efforts to tackle some of the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges.
“In addition to sharing our progress, we hope it prompts conversation about the policy, science, and individual action that’s required to ensure the health of our planet,” says Don Scavia, special counsel to the U-M president on sustainability and director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.
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 President Coleman in 2011, the 2025 goals support the University’s broader overall commitment to sustainability, known as Planet Blue.
On the operations front, the report shows that:
- The intensity of carbon emissions was lessened from U-M’s vehicle fleet, which now includes hybrid and biodiesel fuel buses.
- 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.
The report also highlights the global impact of faculty and students in sustainability.
“We have the unique capability to leverage our strengths in teaching and research to confront the complexity of building a sustainable world,” Scavia says.
That philosophy has led to wide-ranging efforts, with emphases on water, livable communities, and climate change among the spectrum of research. The work includes, for example, partnering with stakeholders throughout the world on planning sustainable developments; providing safe drinking water; developing smart cars that talk to each other and to traffic lights to prevent accidents; designing smart buildings that monitor and adjust their own heating, cooling, and lighting to match the behavior of their occupants; and developing future sustainability leaders through the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program and a new undergraduate minor in sustainability.