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Updated 10:30 AM January 16, 2009
 

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Despite campus growth, U holds line on energy
Read the 2008 U-M Environmental Report >
Learn about about Campus Sustainability >

The amount of energy used to heat, cool and power University buildings remained unchanged last year, even though new construction added nearly 500,000 square feet of space to the Ann Arbor campuses.

"The fact that we're able to hold the line on building energy use despite these increasing demands means that our energy conservation efforts are producing results," says Kenneth Keeler, primary author of the just-published U-M 2008 Environmental Report. Keeler is a pollution prevention specialist at the Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health.

The second annual environmental report was produced by OSEH with input from the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, the Center for Sustainable Systems and students from the Michigan Student Assembly Environmental Issues Commission.

The 45-page report tracks the University's efforts to minimize environmental impacts at the Ann Arbor campuses, which cover 3,070 acres and contain 380 buildings. The campus population includes more than 78,000 students, faculty members and staff.

The report details U-M energy, water and land use; waste disposal and recycling; and fossil fuel combustion emissions during Fiscal Year 2008, which ended June 30. It also highlights some of the projects — such as Planet Blue and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative — to cut energy consumption and increase recycling.

During FY2008 nine major construction and renovation projects were completed on the Ann Arbor campuses, contributing to the 495,807 square feet of new building space added that year. The new space is equivalent to 11.4 acres — more than one-quarter of the original 40-acre campus the University occupied when it moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. Despite the growth, total energy use in campus buildings held steady at 6.2 trillion BTUs last year.

The report also notes that in FY2008:

• The 2008 College Sustainability Report Card, published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, awarded the U-M a grade of B+ for its overall environmental stewardship efforts, placing the University within the top 5 percent of colleges and universities surveyed for the study;

• Water use at the University rose less than one percent, from 1.29 billion gallons to 1.30 billion gallons;

• Nineteen percent of the energy needed to fuel U-M's fleet of 1,098 vehicles came from two renewable energy sources, ethanol and biodiesel and

• More than 17,000 tons of solid waste was collected at the University, and 29 percent of it was recycled — up from 28 percent the previous fiscal year.

"Annual reporting enables us to look at trends associated with all the metric categories being measured and tracked. We can then use that data to focus future environmental efforts," says co-author Andrew Berki, the environmental stewardship and emergency planning manager at OSEH.

On-campus emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide — mainly from the Central Power Plant — dropped last year. Overall U-M emissions of CO2, however, rose by 3.5 percent, chiefly due to an increase in the amount of electricity the University bought from DTE Energy, which uses coal-fired power plants. Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal.

The annual Environmental Report is an outgrowth of the Environmental Task Force established by President Mary Sue Coleman in 2003. The task force recommended that an annual report be written to track the University's progress toward key environmental sustainability goals.

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