Big Blue Goes For Big Green On Campus

Yellow and blue make green, a fact that University of Michigan (U-M) President Mary Sue Coleman highlighted in a recent speech kicking off the university’s annual EarthFest celebration, this year announcing that the public university will invest $14 million to achieve an ambitious set of environmental goals.

By 2025,  U-M – where the popular football team is often referred to as “Big Blue” – plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent (the equivalent of removing nearly 42,000 cars from the road); make the university transportation system more efficient (decreasing vehicle carbon output by 30 percent for every person in the car, truck or bus); and shrink the amount of waste it sends to landfills by 40 percent. Another important goal is to protect the local Huron River through improved storm water control strategies, by applying 40 percent fewer chemicals to campus landscapes and ensuring that at least 30 percent of storm water runoff does not flow into the Huron.

image via University of Michigan

Sustainable local foods will also be a focus, and an area where U-M’s purchasing will no doubt prove a boon to Michigan’s farmers and food distributors. From the university’s residence halls to its student unions and hospitals, these new purchasing guidelines will dictate that at least 20 percent of U-M food comes from local and sustainable sources.

In the short term, U-M will be purchasing 37 hybrid vehicles, installing an “extensive” solar panel array at its North Campus, adding an academic minor in sustainability, more than doubling its commitment to its campus-wide Planet Blue energy conservation measures and going trayless in dining halls.

This new funding comes on top of the $64 million U-M has already earmarked for one-time construction activity including energy efficient buildings, as well as $20 million in recurring funding that directly supports sustainability efforts on campus such as the Office of Campus Sustainability.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.