The University Record, November 5, 1996

Making green of the maize and blue challenges U-M environmentalists

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

It's easy. Just mix yellow and blue to get green. But it will take a lot more effort than that to "green" the maize and blue, says an ad hoc group of staff, faculty and students. The Greening the Maize and Blue Committee emerged from an experimental undergraduate course in the fall of 1995 in the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Designed to involve students in academically challenging projects that would help U-M staff prevent pollution and conserve resources, the 11 class projects ranged from an environmental educator's booklet for Nichols Arboretum to a junk mail reduction campaign for residence halls. Both the class and the committee were instrumental in helping bridge academic and operational sectors of the University.

While individual projects may have been successful, their total impact is limited because they were not part of a larger, broader environmental initiative on campus, the Committee says in its report, "Environmental Leadership at the University of Michigan: Activities and Opportunities."

To fully capitalize on the synergy of these individual efforts, active and coordinated environmental leadership is needed, the report says. With many University units and departments already recognizing the need to devote resources toward environmental protection efforts, the U-M has not yet developed a mission statement or expressed a commitment regarding environmental stewardship. "If it does so," the committee concludes, "there is no doubt it will become a preeminent environmental leader. U-M can and should include itself among the top echelon of environmental leaders."

Once a mission statement and strategic plan are in place, the Committee sees an acute need to link the environmental affairs both within and between existing academic and operational units, perhaps through a cross-campus environmental coordinating office.

Realizing that any activity on the campus, large or small, can affect the natural or physical environment, the committee acknowledged that every campus activity also provides the opportunity to minimize environmental impacts and promote stewardship. "The University, by virtue of its leadership role," the committee's report says, "has a responsibility to the community, the state and the world to minimize the deleterious impacts of its activities on the environment and to educate others to do the same."

With the many environmental stewardship activities already on the U-M campus, the Committee feels that several improvements can and should be made to make the University a true environmental leader.

 

The opportunities for environmental programs are wide and varied with several departments sharing responsibility for maintenance, custodial, utilities, waste and recycling services to U-M's 23 million square feet of buildings.

 

Another 2,500 acres of land, including the Ann Arbor campuses and other properties, present issues in groundskeeping, landscaping, parking and transportation.

 

A less obvious environmental responsibility, but one yielding significant environmental impact, is campus housing, which provides a home for more than 10,000 students in residence halls and 1,600 families in Northwood Family Housing.

 

Dining Services prepares and cleans up after more than 3.5 million meals annually and Conference Management Services hosts 30,000 visitors to U-M facilities each year.

 

Estimates place the use of microcomputers on campus at 25,000, and the energy these computers consume and the paper generated by printers have direct environmental consequences.

"All of these and other University activities affect natural, built and human resources and all have the opportunity to be conducted in a more environmentally sustainable manner," the committee concludes.

With more than 100 environmental graduate and undergraduate course offerings ranging from "A" (air pollution) to "Z" (zebra mussels), students have an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and participation in environmental awareness. They also play an important role in campus environmental stewardship through extracurricular activities and work-study programs with several student organizations devoted to aiding U-M's environmental efforts.

From engineering to ecology, current and future campus environmental activities encompass all aspects of the University---from operations and infrastructure and student activities to teaching, research, and cross-campus activities. "Like the Michigan Mandate," the committee says, "U-M's success in becoming a leader in a sustainable campus environment and a prosperous human environment, depends upon nurturing a positive culture and establishing institutional dedication."

For more information about the "greening" of the maize and blue, contact Andy Duncan at aduncan@umich.edu or Erica Spiegel, 764-1601, or visit the Greening the Maize and Blue Home Page at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~aduncan/gmbindex.html.