Living and Leading on Planet Blue

In partnership with the Northwest Earth Institute, we provide the U-M community with a custom sustainability discussion guide. This guide, “Changing Course: Living and Leading on Planet Blue”, is meant to be used by small groups to set the framework of our roles as individuals, workplaces, and an institution in sustainability and spur ideas, engagement, and action across the university. Participants will be exposed to the core principles and issues around sustainability, and will spur conversations and ideas of how to best integrate sustainability into your workplace, department, or personal lives.

Fill out this form to request a copy of the guide:

Forming a Discussion Group

The guide is meant to be used by small groups of 8-12 people (such as in a workplace or department), in a series of 3, hour-long meetings. (Smaller groups will work as well.) Each session includes short related readings to complete beforehand and example discussion items for during the meeting. See Facilitation Tips below.

Who should use this guide?

Everyone! The guide was developed with U-M workplaces in mind, but is also relevant to classes and student organizations or residences. It can be used by an official workplace “green team” or sustainability committee, or just by a group of co-workers meeting informally over lunch. Depending on the group, you may focus on sustainable actions in the workplace or sustainable actions as individuals on and off campus.

  • Workplace sustainability committee
  • Student organization
  • Informal lunch get-togethers
  • Residence halls
  • “Green Teams”

Why create a discussion group?

The University of Michigan has committed to a goal of engaging and educating our community around sustainability. We encourage workplaces across U-M to support their staff in creating or participating in a sustainability discussion group. Sustainability engagement in employees can lead to money-saving ideas, increased commitment, and improved morale.  U-M also has goals to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, waste, land management chemical usage, and increase the amount of sustainable food we purchase. In order to reach our goals as an institution, we need engaged staff, faculty, and students across the campus. Inspiring others and yourself to engage in sustainable initiatives is most effective in a social context, such as these discussion groups—and it starts at a personal level.

  • Engage in U-M’s sustainability goals
  • Generate support within your department for sustainability initiatives
  • Change is most effective in a social context
  • Engage in systems thinking = uncover connections vs. covering content
  • Change starts at the personal level
  • Awareness building, create opportunities to ask deeper questions, motivation, inspiration, shift perspectives, taking action


The Northwest Earth Institute has created discussion guides used in neighborhood, business, and higher education settings used by over 140,000 people across the country to engage in sustainability. As a result:

  • 72% of participants take the challenges facing sustainability more seriously
  • 80% of participants feel a greater sense of personal obligation for solving environmental challenges
  • 93% of participants found that support from others in their group was instrumental in making personal change

Facilitation Tips

The Northwest Earth Institute provides tips on organizing and facilitating a discussion group using any of their guides, including “Changing Course: Living and Leading on Planet Blue.” Visit their website to access an organizers guide and watch a short video on session facilitation:

You can see the slides from our webinar introduction to this discussion guide here (pdf).

You can also listen to an audio recording of the presentation at: Coming soon!