Sustainable Transitions

Program Updates

After having to pause or adapt most of our programs to support safety during the pandemic, we are excited to hit the ground running this fall!

Waste Reduction
  • Where to Throw – If you haven’t been on campus for a while, your knowledge of what is recyclable or compostable may be rusty! Plus, what is recyclable on campus may be different than at home. Brush up by reviewing our recycling and compost guidelines and searching for specific items in our Where to Throw tool.
  • ChEM Reuse – Pick-ups and deliveries are as contactless as possible. In-person visits to browse stock are available on a limited basis by appointment. Please use the online form or email sustainable-labs@umich.edu.
  • Zero Waste Events – Support is anticipated to be back in a modified, limited format for fall 2021. Details will be announced soon.
  • Speciality Recycling Programs – Writing utensils no longer need to be mailed to our office; instead we will send you a shipping label. Bottle caps can still be sent to the Capture program through campus mail. Unfortunately, we are no longer accepting wrappers. Wrappers must go in your landfill bin.
  • Compost – We continue to expand composting on campus. All food waste can be composted! Any serviceware (plates, cups, cutlery, bowls, to-go boxes etc) must be BPI or CMA-A certified and labeled “compostable.” Otherwise they go in the Landfill bin.
Energy

We have been participating on the Facilities & Operations COVID HVAC Task Force, which conducts ongoing reviews of CDC recommendations, best practices and standards for the design, maintenance, and operation of U-M’s HVAC systems. Here are details about ventilation.

Engagement
  • For some, this transition creates an opportunity to test out new ideas and establish new norms. Let us help! We offer virtual workshops and training, a reinvigorated Green Teams Program, and assistance with small-scale pilots to test out sustainability ideas.
  • Earthfest is back in person this fall! Join us on the Diag on Sept 23.
Resources

As you return to campus, you may find some changes. Please review the program updates above or to the left and the tips below to help you in your sustainable return to campus!

We update this page regularly. If you have any questions, or ideas for possible inclusion, please don’t hesitate to reach out to ocs_contact@umich.edu.

Right-sizing

Most workplaces are different than they were before the pandemic. Your staffing may have changed and/or you may have staff working remotely all or part of the time. Take stock of your workplace’s current needs.

  • Does your space need a refresh? Too many files or extra office supplies around? Consider hosting a green clean day (or week!) dedicated to cleaning out office space while maximizing waste reduction, reuse, and recycling.

Heating and cooling spaces is one of the largest greenhouse gas generators on campus. If your workplace is being reconfigured, consider efficient use of space and shared resources to reduce your environmental footprint.

Factor in changes to avoid over-ordering. No one wants stale coffee beans! Are there items that your workplace has done without over the past year that make sense to continue, such as less printer paper or sticky notes? Encourage your leadership and colleagues to keep new waste-reducing habits! Excess office supplies can be donated to the Office Supply Reuse Days.

Have you been printing less this year? Check out your printing environmental impact and how it compares to previous years at mprint.umich.edu. What paperless habits can you keep up?

Sustainable purchasing

In addition to the right-sizing tips above, take advantage of this reset to start or recommit to sustainable purchasing. U-M’s carbon neutrality initiative includes setting net-zero goals for Scope 3 emissions (indirect sources including purchased goods) by 2025. Try these tips to get ahead of the curve! 

Check out this handy guide for making sustainable purchasing decisions on office supplies. Try this paper calculator to calculate the impact of your office paper choice and identify sustainable options at a variety of price points. If using our new strategic vendor, Staples, enter “U-M Sustainable” in the search bar to see sustainable offerings.

Support vendors who prioritize sustainability. Procurement has sustainability information about many of our strategic suppliers.

Reuse and repair

It’s back! Office Supply Reuse Days will occur this October. You can donate excess office supplies or pick up free gently used supplies.

  • Do you have excess consumables, glassware, or other materials in your lab? Do you need some? Consider working with your department or building to host a lab supply “swap” event to reduce clutter, save money, and reduce waste.
  • You can also use the ChEM Reuse Program to find new homes for excess chemicals, materials, and small equipment, or acquire gently used items for free!

As replacements and updates are needed, don’t forget to check out Property Disposition for inexpensive monitors, whiteboards, furniture, etc.

  • For the break room, the cost of disposable plates, utensils, etc. adds up quickly. Consider purchasing a set of reusables or encouraging colleagues to bring their own set from home.
  • M|Dining will be distributing reusable take-out containers to on-campus students to use in the dining halls this fall.
Events

There are many ways to make events more sustainable!

In most cases, virtual events have a smaller environmental footprint – definitely if air travel is involved! Check out our virtual event footprint guide for tips on reducing your virtual event’s footprint even more.

  • What you eat has one of the most significant impacts on the environment. With U-M’s recent carbon neutrality commitment, we are looking even more to go low-carbon with our food
  • Food waste is one of the largest categories of waste. Make sure you don’t over-order for your event to prevent food waste at the end. Also, work toward reducing packaging and any other non-compostable waste. We offer support for zero waste events and composting food waste.
Transportation

Do you have a new work model this fall where you could commute less often or via different means? Remember, choosing a sustainable commute even one or two days a week can have a significant impact. Were you already a sustainable commuter? Make sure to check for changes in bus routes and schedules, as well as changes in biking infrastructure.

  • Learn about biking infrastructure on campus and check out this handy bike map of Ann Arbor and the surrounding area.
  • Want to know more about walking around the Ann Arbor campus and surrounding community? GetDowntown has many resources for pedestrians (as well as other alternative modes of commuting).
  • If you no longer need to drive to campus 5 days a week, consider purchasing daily parking passes. This gives you flexibility to telecommute, ride the bus, or walk or bike on days those options work for you, while still having a parking option when needed.
  • Don’t idle! Please turn off your vehicle anytime you are not actively driving. Excess emissions from standing vehicles exacerbate local air pollution and endanger people nearby who have asthma or other respiratory illnesses.
Sustainable Transition Success Stories
  • Shared Services teams moved customer onboarding sessions into on-demand videos, switched university suppliers from paper to electronic invoicing processes, and created new procedures so employees can submit benefits and other HR forms securely via electronic means.
  • Michigan Medicine eliminated the after-visit summary (2-3 pieces of paper, on average) for patients who have an online patient account to reduce infection risk and save money—while also reducing waste.
  • After using compostable serviceware and to-go boxes last year, M|Dining is taking sustainability one step further by offering students reusable to-go boxes for use in the dining halls this fall.
  • Facilities & Operations switched to electronic distribution of construction and renovation project drawings. They were packages of 3’x4′ drafting paper, sent to a wide list including Utilities, DPSS, the Fire Marshall, Engineering staff, and more. Now they are shared electronically, saving an enormous amount of paper and streamlining the review process.


Green Teams actively work to increase sustainability in their workplaces.
See more of their success stories here.