Parents and Families


Sustainable "U"

It’s "earth first" for students like yours at the University of Michigan. Taking the lead towards a more sustainable world, U-M students are involved in sustainable organizations, projects and events.

"Students realize how important sustainability practices are for our environment. They are passionate, driven students who want to help educate others, incorporate ideas and concepts into campus, and walk away knowing that their efforts made a difference," says Keith Soster, director of Student Engagement. "Here on campus, passionate students have helped to create many pathways that lead us to a more sustainable campus and world."

Your student can become involved with sustainability efforts in a number of ways, including:

Student organizations

With more than 1400 student organizations at U-M, there is sure to be a group (or many groups) whose focus on sustainability will interest your student. Check them out at Maize Pages.

Class projects

Many courses offer opportunities where your student can research, test practices and pilot projects on campus. For example, in Environmental 391 (Sustainability and the Campus), students work on a project, learn about the pros and cons, analyze the results, and offer solutions that might make the project feasible for implementation on campus. Projects are selected by students and groups are formed to research and offer recommendations based on their findings. Working on these projects helps students from every area of study discover how sustainability fits in their career field.

Group projects

The U-M Sustainable Food Program is an umbrella organization for 13 student groups that focus on food sustainability. These include:

  • Maize and Blue Cupboard, a food pantry for students.
  • Student Food Co, a group that helps provide students with access to fresh produce.
  • The Food Recovery Network (FRN), a student-formed national group that gleans leftover food from the dining halls and donates the food to a local community pantry called Food Gatherers. Since its inception three years ago, FRN has collected over 17,000 pounds of food for donation.
  • Michigan Engineering students are collaborating with students from numerous disciplines to build a biodigester which grinds food waste into a pulp that is processed into a methane gas. The gas can be collected to be used for energy. They plan to demonstrate the process at an on-campus barbecue.


"Student learning and engagement can also happen through the promotion of sustainable campus events," Soster explains. "Supporting national events like Food Day and Earth Day can bring awareness and support from the student groups passionate about sustainability. Garnering the collective communication power of these groups and bringing them together can help build the culture on campus.”

Events include farmers markets, harvest festivals, Recyclemania, and themed meals. The activities lead to easily adopted habits -- like carrying a refillable water bottle -- and can promote actionable items for students, faculty and staff.

"At our convocation event this year, students celebrated their entry into their college career by having a zero waste picnic outside the Michigan Union. All items for the picnic were compostable.  Along with dinner, a refillable water bottle was offered to each freshman in hopes that from the beginning of their experience on campus they’ll start implementing steps to becoming more sustainable," Soster says. "As students learn about food access and dozens of other sustainable food issues, they’ve challenged themselves to 'be the change' on campus. These informal opportunities challenge the students to engage in the out of classroom experience."   


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