Environment and Sustainability

“Human influenced global climate change is the defining scientific and social problem of our age.”

– President Mark S. Schlissel

The University of Michigan is pursuing multiple interdisciplinary efforts in sustainability and advancing solutions to address human-influenced global climate change. Efforts include a university-wide initiative and commitment to reach carbon neutrality, a renewed emphasis on sustainability topics at Earth Day 50, and ever-expanding resources for students, staff and faculty to get involved through Planet Blue.

The threats posed by the climate crisis extend far beyond the U-M campus and community. By bringing together academics, activists and community leaders, U-M, as a top public research university, has a distinct opportunity to help chart the path forward. Faculty and students from a wide variety of disciplines are working together, in partnership with those on the front lines in communities, to address the root causes of, and potential solutions for, the most pressing challenges facing our planet.

Faculty conduct research and scholarship that tackles virtually every aspect of the climate crisis, including the science of carbon sequestration, renewable energy, public policy, and the impact of climate change on communities and economies. U-M expertise is widely sought, from local leaders in the state who seek to help businesses that rely on the health of the Great Lakes to international officials who are addressing population growth, human health, and resource management.

President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality

The President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, established in February 2019, is charged with guiding the university toward carbon neutrality and developing strategies that can be used by other institutions and larger communities to achieve the same goal. 

The carbon commission‘s work spans all three U-M campuses and Michigan Medicine. Membership includes students, faculty, administrators and local partners. Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, and Stephen Forrest, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and former vice president for research at U-M, serve as co-chairs.

Since its launch, internal analysis teams, comprised of students, faculty, staff and external partners, have been tackling important topics, including: biosequestration, building standards, campus culture and communication, commuting, energy consumption, external collaboration, food, and university travel. Additional subgroups are focusing on issues such as social justice, electricity purchasing, and carbon accounting.

While the commission’s work is underway, the University remains committed to reaching its current campus goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025, and, through a planned expansion to the central power plant and finalized wind power agreement with DTE, reach it ahead of schedule.


The commission released its first interim progress report in December 2019, which focused on defining the breadth and scope of U-M’s efforts toward carbon neutrality. A second interim report is expected in spring 2020 and final recommendations to the president are expected in fall 2020.

U-M joined 20 other North American universities in the University Climate Change Coalition — a program of the organization Second Nature — in the quest to share knowledge and ideas to accelerate climate change solutions, and collaborate with local, regional and national institutions working to achieve their climate goals.

The University of Michigan is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly with an agreement to buy renewable energy through DTE Energy that will result in about half of the purchased electricity for the Ann Arbor campus coming from Michigan-sourced renewable resources.

Earth Day at 50

In March 2020, the University of Michigan will commemorate the 50th anniversary of its role in Earth Day with a series of live events and teach-ins convened by various schools, centers, and student organizations. Planned highlights include: Earthfest, an LSA Theme Semester, and featured speakers and topics at the Wege Lecture, the culminating Earth Day teach-in, an online Teach Out, and other major university events. Students, faculty, staff, the City of Ann Arbor, the Ecology Center, and other community partners are joining together to ensure that the event is inclusive, covers an array of issues, and helps chart the path ahead toward a more sustainable future.

Fifty years ago, U-M held the nation’s first “Environmental Teach-In,” which drew more than 15,000 participants. It served as a model for the events of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. 

Planet Blue

The Office of Campus Sustainability, through “Planet Blue,” offers resources and information for students, staff and faculty to get involved in the university’s progress toward sustainability. Planet Blue lists organizations involved in on-the-ground sustainability work, upcoming campus events that cover relevant topics, and steps that individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Planet Blue also tracks the university’s progress toward its 2025 sustainability goals, relating to: greenhouse gas reduction, fuel efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable food purchasing, Huron River protection and campus engagement.



Planet Blue