U-M launches campus sustainability Web site

The University has been a leader in energy conservation and environmental stewardship for decades, long before "campus sustainability" became a buzzword.

Web site highlights

Those who visit the site will learn:

• Earth Day was co-founded in 1970 by the late Morton Hilbert, who was a professor in the School of Public Health

• In the 1980s, U-M established "Building Performance Teams" to evaluate on-campus energy consumption. It started a campuswide recycling program in 1989

• In the 1990s, the University was an early supporter of the federal government's Energy Star program and won national awards for its energy-efficient buildings

• In 2000, U-M installed ethanol pumps for campus vehicles, fueling one of the country's largest alternative-energy fleets

• Current sustainability-related projects include the Planet Blue initiative to cut energy consumption in U-M buildings and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. Also, the Graham Institute recently named four students to lead a Student Sustainability Initiative to help coordinate between student groups and U-M administrators on sustainability issues.

U-M has taken that commitment a step further with the launch of its first campuswide sustainability Web site, www.sustainable.umich.edu.

"This new Web site will serve as a gateway and will provide a better, more complete picture of the many, many things that the University of Michigan is doing related to campus sustainability," says Brian Talbot, interim director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

Links on the site provide information about on-campus recycling, energy-conservation, green student groups, and sustainability-related research projects and academic offerings.

The site defines sustainability as the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Graham Institute and the Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health (OSEH) co-sponsored the project, which took about a year to complete and involved more than 20 people. A Campus Sustainability Web Site Committee was formed representing 14 units from all the Ann Arbor campuses. Committee members gathered information about sustainability-related activities in their units, as well as relevant Web links.

Phire Branding Co. designed the site, organizing the information within six main topic headings: energy and resource management; purchasing, waste reduction and recycling; health and safety; buildings, grounds and preserves; research, education and outreach; and campus life.

"We hope that this Web site will function as the hub of a wheel, with spokes leading back out to all the different departments, institutes, centers, offices and student groups around campus engaged in sustainability-related activities," says Katie Talik, co-project manager .

Talik, formerly of the Graham Institute, is publications manager at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. The other co-project manager was Ken Keeler, OSEH senior pollution prevention specialist.

"This is partly about raising public awareness of U-M's long-running commitment to environmental stewardship," Keeler says. "But it's also about trying to motivate the campus population to get involved and to help us.

"By doing simple things like turning off lights and computers, they can be part of the University's environmental success."

"Now, when somebody does a search for information about environmental sustainability at the University of Michigan, this new Web site will pop up, and they can just link to whatever it is they're looking for," says Terry Alexander, executive director of OSEH.

"And that's important for several reasons," he says. "For example, if prospective students are shopping around for a university based on environmental criteria, we need to have that information out there for them, so they can see everything that's happening here."

Readers also can submit nominations for Green Star, a site feature that will highlight students, faculty members and staff who've made significant contributions to the sustainability effort, either at work or in their personal lives.