Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Participation lively at Sustainability Town Hall

More than 150 faculty, students and staff offered their suggestions for ways to create a more sustainable campus at the second town hall meeting sponsored by the Graham Sustainability Institute and the Office of Campus Sustainability.

Share your ideas
Campus members can continue to offer suggestions online.

The event was held to give the campus a say in setting goals for operations as part of a yearlong process called an integrated assessment.

The meeting began with brief presentations about the progress of teams working on seven topics, followed by breakout sessions. The seven areas are buildings, energy, transportation, land and water, food, purchasing and recycling, and culture.

Energy team leader Greg Keoleian, director of the Center for Sustainable Systems, said the team planned to emphasize geothermal energy as one of its recommendations. The team also is taking a new look at a student project done some years ago about the feasibility of installing photovoltaics on the roof of Michigan Stadium, he said.

From the audience came a recommendation by John Porter, an engineer with Architecture, Engineering and Construction, who said U-M should find a way to capture the heat generated by large-scale data centers.

Robert Marans, research professor in the Institute for Social Research and head of the culture team, led a conversation that drew many suggestions for ways to help campus embrace the values of sustainability. Marans noted a relatively small percentage of campus is concerned about the issue, and the idea is to raise awareness.

A sample of the ideas that emerged were to require graduate and undergraduate students to participate in a sustainability activity, to focus on the issue at freshman orientation and to find ways to make it easier for staff to attend sustainability events. Another recommendation was to involve film and theatre students who would create engaging ways to present the topic. Marans said the team would recommend collecting baseline data about campus attitudes so it can set targets for change.

The food team said some of its recommendations would include reducing waste by composting pre- and post-consumption food, implementing trayless dining, and banning plastic beverage containers. Obtaining a food supply that is 10 percent locally produced is another priority.

The transportation team, led by Jonathan Levine, professor of urban planning, is recommending revisions to pricing and incentives for parking that would encourage more people to bike, walk or use public transit. A full set of sustainability recommendations from all the teams is due by the end of May.

Further analysis and integration will occur this summer setting the stage for more intensive study in the fall. The university plans to announce four or five stretch goals for campus sustainability in Winter 2011.