Michigan State University is recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability, from its 15 undergraduate majors boasting an environmental focus to its resource-saving programs on campus.
MSU last year earned a silver rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, or STARS, a new program that measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. One of 26 schools awarded silver status, MSU was lauded for its new sustainability specialization, student organic farm, residential environmental studies initiative, local and sustainable food purchases, and sustainability research incentives.
MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability and the Be Spartan Green initiative lead research, data collection, programming and outreach, and communications for the university’s environmental stewardship initiative. The Office of Campus Sustainability provides resources to all Spartans to take action while the Energy Educator and Environmental Steward programs are designed specifically to promote environmental changes and energy savings.
MSU has more than600 environmental stewards—students, faculty, and staff who are the ambassadors for energy efficiency and resource conservation in their buildings. They share information with the campus community regarding simple energy conservation measures, such as turning off equipment when not in use and dialing down the thermostat for heating.
Evening classes are scheduled more efficiently with classes held in fewer buildings, a practice that is reducing energy use. Occupancy sensors that automatically reduce light levels and turn off lights in unoccupied classrooms are scheduled to be installed in all classrooms. Energy monitors installed in two residence halls allow students and staff to monitor energy use in the building.
Results of such efforts pay off in benefits to the environment and to the university’s finances. Greenhouse gas emissions have been cut 9 percent since 2009, and energy usage per square foot has been reduced by 7 percent since fiscal 2010.
In solid waste reduction, MSU is making even bigger strides. The university resolved in 2008 to cut waste 30 percent by 2015 from the 2005–06 year. The waste reduction level reached 36 percent by 2010–11, five years ahead of schedule. Paper use is down 26 percent while campus sales of recycled content materials are up 50 percent. The total rate of campus recycling is 42 percent, thanks to recycling of more than five million pounds of material from campus buildings and from the public recycling drop-off center. Landfill waste has been cut by a third since 2006. We aim to recycle even more, in part through recycling collections in 553 campus buildings.
Some cafeteria waste from the more than 30,000 meals served daily on campus now is going to a pilot anaerobic digester to help produce usable methane gas, while composting projects have diverted more than 8,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. Another 37,000 pounds of usable food was provided to the Greater Lansing Food Bank and the American Red Cross in 2010–11. Campus dining halls, meanwhile, buy food from more than 237 local and regional businesses, and MSU hoop houses grow food year round.
Half of construction waste was recycled in the recent Wharton Center renovation as officials work to implement a wider construction and demolition waste program. And in transportation, more than half of MSU’s fleet vehicles are environmentally friendly, and last year an electric vehicle charging station was installed in the Kellogg Center parking ramp.