The University Record, December 17, 2001

U practices Environmental Stewardship

By Theresa Maddix

This image and slogan will become familiar as the University continually emphasizes environmental stewardship.
“At this point, the biggest challenge we face is changing behavior,” Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said regarding environmental stewardship at U-M. Although earth-friendly efforts are not in the forefront as much as they once were, the University remains committed to continually finding ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Kasdin introduced Terry Alexander, director of Occupational Safety And Environmental Health (OSEH), for “Making a Greener Maize and Blue,” who made a presentation at the December Regents meeting.

“There’s quite an interaction,” Alexander said, “between what makes good business sense and what’s good environmentally. The University staff and management take environmental stewardship very seriously. It’s considered a normal part of our doing business.”

Alexander cited figures from environmental programs across campus to demonstrate the University’s commitment. He reported:

  • 74 out of 116 General Fund buildings have undergone the Energy Star review and 27 buildings have completed energy upgrades. Energy Star is a program that evaluates and fine tunes energy usage in building systems.

  • The implementation of energy reduction programs is saving the University 25 million kilowatt- hours per year, enough to provide power to 3,000 homes in Washtenaw County.

  • The Health System has initiated a chemical redistribution system that saves the cost of purchasing new chemicals, as well as recycling fees.

  • The Health System also has now successfully decommissioned its incinerator, replacing it with the steam sterilization system.

  • Between 2000–2001, fertilizer usage dropped 17 percent; herbicide usage was at 45 percent; and insecticide usage decreased by 85 percent.

  • The City of Ann Arbor’s Engineering Department, Pfizer and Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) have all approached the University for consultation on snow removal systems.

  • 30 percent of the University waste stream is recycled.

  • At student move-out, more than 25,000 pounds of clothing, furniture and dry goods were donated to local service organizations and food banks.

  • The University recycles 4.6 million pounds of paper per year.

  • 11.3 tons of plastic and glass, and 13.7 tons of cardboard and paper were recycled from football programs at Michigan Stadium this season.

  • 70,000 pounds of food waste were recycled from residence halls with a newly implemented food composting program.

    The University also is moving toward a mercury-free campus. Alexander said, “The Environmental Protection Agency is targeting mercury as one of the top ten bioaccumulative toxins. The State of Michigan has identified it as a priority pollutant of concern.”

    The Health System is now mercury-free and Universitywide, mercury thermostats have been eliminated. The engineering campus is working to reduce its supply of mercury, and a fluorescent bulb recycling program has been implemented for additional mercury disposal.

    “We’ve been very successful in reducing energy costs,” Alexander said. “Our goal is now modifying the behavior on campus.”

    Students in residence halls are the first target of the environmental stewardship campaign. “If utility costs can be reduced by just 1 percent,” said Alexander, “there is the potential of saving $400,000–$600,000 each year.”

    Purchasing has set up a Web site for green products and will highlight it at a purchasing fair in February.

    OSEH’s Web site offers a direct link to environmental stewardship programs on campus, www.umich.edu/~oseh/sustain.html.

    “Being a good steward is all of our responsibility,” said Alexander. “It takes everybody being involved.”