2016 Sustainability Progress Report


Planet Blue is the University of Michigan’s unified commitment to sustainability education, research, operations and community engagement.

It isn’t a department or unit, but rather the sum total of work being done by U-M students, faculty and staff across the university to meet the global challenges of sustainability.

This sustainability progress report offers a snapshot of our collective efforts in 2016 toward: Goal Progress, Student Engagement and Research Innovation.

Message from President

Dear Friends,

8/5/15 University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel.

The University of Michigan has long been a leader in sustainability education, research and impact. As we celebrate U-M’s Bicentennial, we are proud to honor the accomplishments of our faculty, students, staff and supporters who have helped us achieve at the highest levels – while also examining our potential for even greater achievements.

Our legacy includes the roots of the first Earth Day and the nation’s first collegiate course in forestry. In recent years, it has included updates to our campus sustainability goals, the launch of Planet Blue, a Gold STARS certification by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and several cutting-edge research initiatives that leverage the breadth of the university and span the globe.

U-M’s aspirations in sustainability and environmental research and education reflect our excellence and ethos as a 200-year-old public university.

Over the decades, our wonderful supporters – including the Fred and Barbara Erb family, The Dow Chemical Company and Foundation, Peter M. Wege, and Donald Graham – have been central to U-M’s success. They have helped us improve environmental, economic and community health in the Great Lakes and through projects overseas.

To further enhance our impact, we have created a new school for our next century. The School for Environment and Sustainability will foster interdisciplinary research and education that addresses global challenges. The new school follows U-M’s tradition of rising to meet the dynamic challenges and opportunities of sustainability.

The School for Sustainability and Environment will pursue collaborative approaches to societal issues that are at the intersection of our environment and fields including business, public policy, health and law, to name just a few. It will bring together faculty from different disciplines and encourage students to approach problems from multiple perspectives.

I am proud of our many accomplishments and am excited by the opportunities ahead. Thank you for your interest in and support of Planet Blue. Your dedication to U-M, our students, and the future of our world is an inspiration to our entire community.


Mark Schlissel

Pioneers of Sustainability

Building on U-M’s strengths, new school created to magnify impact

During its bicentennial year, the University of Michigan is creating a new type of school to address increasingly dynamic and complex global sustainability challenges at the intersection of environment and society.

U-M’s expansive breadth and depth of expertise uniquely positions the university to be at the forefront of an integrated, collaborative, innovative and vigorous set of programs that will magnify the impact of faculty, staff and student work in the environment and sustainability areas.

Expected to open in the fall 2017, the School for Environment and Sustainability will replace the School of Natural Resources and Environment, build on its strengths, have a broader mission and be structured to engage faculty from across the university.

As a new type of school, it will be organized around disciplinary clusters and interdisciplinary sustainability themes pulling expertise from the fields of sustainability science, design, engineering, policy, the humanities and the arts.

It will educate and train students on environment and sustainability concerns at all levels — including undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels — using the campus and local communities as living laboratories.

U-M’s AASHE gold STARS rating

One of 80 institutions in the world

The University of Michigan’s sustainability performance received a gold rating by the international Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System in 2015. U-M was one of 80 institutions earning a gold rating, and among more than 700 colleges and universities around the globe using the STARS reporting tool to compare sustainability in higher education.

Developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, STARS uses a self-reporting framework to benchmark sustainability efforts in the areas of academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration and innovation.