Master's and Professional Projects

Displaying 21-30 of 51

A Window into Relationship Coffee: Building a Supplier Dashboard for Sustainable Harvest

Sustainable Harvest Inc. (SH) is a specialty coffee importer headquartered in Portland, Oregon. SH sources unroasted (green) coffee beans from 18 countries in Latin America and Africa and sells to roasters in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Over the past 17 years, SH has pioneered the “Relationship Coffee Model” as a method of direct trade, providing significant investment and trainings to producers at origin to facilitate improved coffee bean quality, protect against environmental and price risks, and improve farmer livelihoods. SH also strives to increase transparency along the supply chain.

At its core the mission of our project was to help SH develop a standardized and effective process for communicating to its customers (coffee roasters) the value-add of engagements – including sustainability-related interventions – along its supply chain. We accomplished this by creating an annual supplier survey of farmers in SH’s supply chain, which allows SH to monitor various performance and process metrics over time. By tracking this information, Sustainable Harvest is able to measure the progress its suppliers are making in:

  • Employing best-in-class labor standards and advancing the livelihoods of smallholder farmers;
  • Growing consistent, high quality coffee;
  • Implementing sustainable agronomic practices and promoting resilient farming communities;
  • Developing long-term relationships within Sustainable Harvest and with other capacity builders.

As a final deliverable, we created a dashboard which Sustainable Harvest can use to communicate to its customers key supplier metrics, allowing them to “know” their suppliers. Finally, we worked to predict and evaluate future challenges and recommended solutions that should help Sustainable Harvest’s relationship coffee model, with its new dashboard, thrive for years to come.

Addressing Slum Redevelopment Issues in India

The main objective of this study is to develop recommendations to improve the Government of India’s Housing for All policy. Apart from the recommendations to policymakers on institutional themes, we also provide recommendations to private sector real-estate developers for designing sustainable low-income settlements.

Approaches to Sustainability Framework

The purpose of this project was to tackle sustainability on an intrinsic level and consider platforms or tools to educate people on the importance of sustainability. This required the team to investigate potential competing societal values currently limiting true progress towards environmental sustainability within the United States. The vision for this project was seeing such tools being used as exercises in businesses or academics to educate both employers and employees as well as students and staff members to become more aware about how they approach solving sustainability challenges. In hopes that with a better understanding they can and make more efficient and effective choices that consider the triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity. Our mission was to affect change within ourselves and other individuals that may lead to more conscientious choices. Underpinning these statements is the assertion or worldview that living in a sustainable world is an ethically desirable pursuit.

Community‐Based Resource Sharing in Southeastern Michigan

In many developed countries like the United States, the drive for wealth accumulation and a more individualized consumption of goods and services has largely contributed to environmental degradation and climate change ( Thøgersen , 2014), economic inequality (Alderson & Nielson, 2002), and a decline in social capital (Putnam, 1995). Community‐based resource sharing, which includes both formal and informal sharing of physical resources, services, and skills, has the potential to decrease aggregate levels of consumption (Botsman & Rodgers, 20011), while improving social equity and helping us live within our ecological means (Cooper & Timmer, 2015).

This report highlights research findings and recommendations to encourage sharing within communities. A community survey (n = 274), guided by key informant interviews with local sharing organization leaders, was distributed to five communities in Southeastern Michigan to better understand the benefits, challenges, and opportunities for community‐based resource sharing.

De-silting Minor Irrigation Ponds in South India: The Sustainability of Decentralized Resource Distribution
Retrofitting Landscapes

Retrofitting Landscapes began as an exploration to build upon existing initiatives to reduce urban waterway pollution in the Cleveland area. To adopt a site-based approach, the project team initiated a partnership with LAND studio, an organization with an established interest in improving both the Doan Brook’s adjacent public spaces and water quality. LAND studio is a non-profit design and place-making organization that specializes in improving neighborhoods through public art, sustainable design, and inclusive and dynamic programming. The organization’s mission is to develop and implement innovative ideas by engaging in inclusive planning practices, and it is committed to sustainable design excellence and collaborative planning.

Smarter Water

Over the past year, five members of the Dow Sustainability Fellows at the University of Michigan have joined together to take a multidisciplinary approach at tackling the problem of resource allocation and information sharing for non-profits that are focused on creating water resources in developing countries.

The team has partnered with Sadagaat, a Sudanese non-profit, to help the organization make smarter sustainability decisions. The first six months of the project were spent researching Sadagaat’s institutional capability, narrowing the scope of the project, and conducting on-site interviews with Sadagaat’s staff to find the right problem to solve. One of Sadagaat’s problems was that as a small non-profit, they often build waters resource where villages can fund construction. This donor-driven model potentially defeats longterm sustainability goals as water resources are often not built in areas that need or provide the most water.

The Illinois Nature Preserves Alliance

This report proposes a solution for critical funding and capacity shortages in the management of the Illinois Nature Preserves System. It does so by reviewing the state of Illinois’ public land management needs, existing actors and resources, and by ultimately proposing the basic architecture of a nonprofit tailored to work in concert with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

Project Report (PDF)

Urban Farming - The Black Pearl Gardens

As a part of the Dow Masters/Professional Sustainability Fellow 2015 Cohort, we worked to develop and assist in the success of a new microgreen greenhouse in the basement of The Black Pearl Restaurant called Black Pearl Gardens. Our group’s client was Christy Kaledas, a microgreen grower hired by the Black Pearl to transform their basement space into a greenhouse. All of the crops grown will be served at the Black Pearl restaurant and other local businesses, in hopes to both localize the menu further and promote business by advertising sustainability. Fellows worked on and provided recommendations for many different aspects of the project: social media analysis, project development/operations, logistics recommendation, environmental analysis, analysis of the space, growth plan, and financial feasibility. The following report details what we hope can be used as a case study for future urban farmings.

Project Report (PDF)

Washtenaw Food Policy Council: Growing the Local Food System

Demand for “local foods” is a growing trend across the United States (U.S.). Since the early twentieth century, U.S. farms have undergone increasing industrialization, consolidation, and specialization. In the wake of these trends, diverse stakeholders aim to strengthen local food systems by creating smaller operations, increasing food diversity, and improving social connections to producers. Proponents believe a strong local food system can increase food security, improve the nutritional quality of crops, mitigate the environmental impacts of globalized food production, and expand local economic development. Existing farmers are increasingly embracing direct-to-consumer mechanisms to remove middlemen and increase profit margins (Diamond & Soto, 2009; Martinez et al., 2010).

These trends are evident in many large and small communities across the country, no less so in a 722 square mile county in Southeastern Michigan best known nationally as the home to the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. It is in Washtenaw County that the following research was conducted to generate substantive recommendations to support the growth of small to medium size farms in the county. Though there is no doubt that many of our findings are applicable at a larger scale, this effort remains at heart a place-based study.

The remainder of the report focuses first on understanding larger trends in local food, and why it is relevant for those interested in public health, environmental and economic issues. Next, the report shifts sight to research methods and partners. Third, the report contextualizes the current state of food production and farmers in Washtenaw County. Finally, key findings are presented and followed by specific actionable recommendations stemming from those findings.