Michigan State University 2006 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award Application


Four-year and graduate institutions over 10,000 student FTE


Terry Link
Director, Campus Sustainability
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Governance & Administration

There have been a number of substantial accomplishments in governance and administration at MSU in the past two years that propel us towards sustainability as an institution. The Faculty Voice effort begun in spring of 2006 has revisited the role of faculty, and by default – the entire community, in participating in the governance of the university. The efforts are leading to a discussion of recommendations by the community in the coming year. On the heels of that important initiative, the new president, Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon, launched “Boldness By Design” in fall 2005. The five principles of this effort are: enhancing the student experience; improving research opportunities; enriching community, economic and family life; expanding international reach; and strengthening stewardship. Each key principle has spurred a set of more specific efforts.

Within the stewardship effort we have seen development of new positions for environmental management systems (EMS) manager, energy manager, and solid waste coordinator within the past year. Not simply relying on new positions the approaches are more broadly collaborative and include an emphasis on using a “systems” approach to thinking the issues broadly and interdependently. A “systems” coordinating team has been recently established to help in each of the two most pressing areas of stewardship – energy and solid waste (see operations section for more detail). MSU is pursuing ISO 14001 certification for our National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and applying EMS strategies in several additional units. A broad-based Environmental Health and Safety committee includes key personnel that meet regularly to discuss issues, exchange information and seek new solutions.

This is the fifth year of our Vision 2020 planning effort. We are currently reviewing the progress on that planning effort through inclusive discussions around campus regarding our accomplishments and shortcomings. The 2020 Vision had numerous sustainability principles embedded in it through consultation with the University Committee for a Sustainable Campus (UCSC). The UCSC works with the Office of Campus Sustainability(OCS), which it created through a successful U.S. EPA grant in 2000. They will produce a 2006 Campus Sustainability Report. An earlier version is considered one of the best examples of a higher education sustainability report. The new edition, scheduled to be published this fall, will not simply update the 70+ indicators, but add indicators and recommend future action. The UCSC/OCS is running its ongoing UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development speaker series throughout the coming year with noted speakers addressing important issues for the university and local community.

MSU is the lead institution in the Michigan Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (MiHEPS), which brings together higher education institutions across Michigan. Besides hosting its web site and listserv, MSU will host a MiHEPS conference next spring on higher education’s response to climate change. In addition MSU is a member of AASHE, ULSF, NWF Campus Ecology and the Economicology group. In July 2006 MSU joined the Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership making a commitment to undertake voluntary pollution prevention and to commit to prevention and reduction goals. MSU was selected as 2005 Cool Workplace Award.


The “Boldness by Design” initiative includes a major stewardship component. This includes a campus-wide focus on sustainability. Efforts include an increased focus on waste reduction including development of an expanded recycling center; creation of a task force that includes faculty, students and staff to identify all the inputs and outputs of campus waste stream and to recommend approaches to reduce waste; a second task force that uses a systems analysis approach on energy conservation.

Energy conservation has been a key component in the development of facilities, including a co-generation power plant. With a central energy management system in all major buildings MSU maintains the lowest electrical consumption per square foot among the Big Ten as documented by a survey for fiscal year 2004/2005. The University is currently in the process of joining the Chicago Climate Exchange(CCX) making a commitment to reduce both CO2 emissions and develop off set programs as a member and partner with the exchange.

MSU Construction Standards have incorporated LEED design practices specific to each major division which will be posted on our website in September 2006. MSU has recently committed to meet LEED certification for new buildings, including the 2006 Chemistry Building addition, that seeks a LEED Silver rating. MSU is eager to employ new technologies and products, such as waterless urinals, which then become part of the standards. MSU landscape architects and grounds personnel have employed design strategies for parking lots to reduce storm water run off, reduced frequency of mowing, and are working with researchers on campus to test the efficiency of a drip style irrigation system to reduce water use.

MSU has expanded use of hybrid vehicles and all farm equipment and University owned trucks on campus have switched to bio-diesel fuel in the past two years. After a voluntary effort to enhance bicycling, MSU announced August 1st a commitment to expand the MSU Bike Project into a permanent unit. The Bike Project has leased more than 375 bikes to the campus community last year, by repairing discarded bikes and making them available, and has offered bike repair clinics every week to the thousands of bicyclists on our campus.

Housing and Food Services announced that as of August 1st, all cafes on campus will serve ONLY “Fair Trade” coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate. The cafes and residence halls, have been offering fair trade coffee as an option for the past year. In addition they now use Green Seal certified cleaners, established Energy Star dorm rooms showcased to new and potential students during orientation and recruitment visits, and tackled many other issues related to sustainability in the past two years. One effort is a hugely successful “Pack-up, Pitch-in” spring effort that distributes abandoned materials to local nonprofits.

Operations has promoted research efforts with faculty and students in various areas during the past two years including review of existing building standards; solid waste review; development of new uses for fly-ash and animal waste; and application for test burns for two types of biomass fuels in the power plant.

Curriculum & Research

Curriculum development around sustainability continues to grow at MSU. Searching our database of courses we find increased opportunities for students at all levels to study sustainability as a whole or in many of its key parts. There are 27 courses on sustainability offered this fall, up from 16 two years ago. Besides the individual course offerings more new programs are being created at a variety of levels. The recently created graduate program in Environmental Science and Policy Program (ESPP) has connected environmental studies across the entire university making both course and research opportunities more accessible regardless of discipline. New forums have been created to bring in speakers and to tackle issues with multi-disciplinary interests. This is making it easier to attract faculty with multiple interests who might not find homes that allow them to pursue their interests beyond their primary discipline.

Two new sustainability specializations at the undergraduate level are in the process of development - one dealing with sustainable agriculture and food systems and the other with sustainability more broadly. Both specializations are using a broad inclusive approach in their development, engaging faculty from multiple disciplines and areas. The intent is to have them in the governance system for approval during this academic year. In the past two years several other noteworthy programs have been launched to join the many already in existence. Science, Technology, Environment and Public Policy (STEPPs) is a program emerging from several colleges and schools. It joins RISE (Residential Initiative for the Study of Environment), ecological economics, international development, and peace and justice studies as popular interdisciplinary programs dealing with key components of sustainability for the growing number of interested students.

The Student Organic Farm (SOF) entered its third year continuing to expand while bridging the curricular and research missions of the university. SOF has recently had approved an “organic farming certificate program” that it will launch this year. This focused one year program will wed the research, teaching, operations, and outreach mission of the campus. Of particular interest is the research being conducted on the use of unheated greenhouses for extending the growing seasons in northern climates. SOF is also tied into local K-12 schools as are other MSU efforts with school gardens, vermicomposting, as examples.

Building on the research efforts are newly birthed programs including the School of Planning, Design and Construction which is focusing on sustainable design, the Land Policy Program which is looking at the complex interface of humans and land use and ESPP (mentioned earlier). The Sustainable Michigan Endowed Program (SMEP) is a recently formed collaboration of endowed chairs in Agriculture and Natural Resources, including several newly endowed chairs focused on sustainability. SMEP funds related research into Michigan’s sustainability and hosts programs and forums.

The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism recently received a $2 million grant to expand its highly recognized efforts for training journalists. Together with RISE and OCS they have launched a Campus Nature Watch website to bring to light the natural wonders of the campus.

Community Service and Outreach

MSU has long been dedicated to the wider community in our own backyard and around the globe. Our University Extension and Agricultural Experiment Stations are active in all 83 counties and our Community Economic Development Program (CEDP) is involved in major Michigan cities. We assisted the redevelopment of Rwanda after the genocide through development of specialty coffee growing that has led to development of 13 cooperatives that raise and sell fair trade coffee. In the past two years MSU closed that loop by purchasing that coffee. This development led the owner of a chain of coffee stores to move towards fair trade coffee offerings including the Rwanda coffee, in more than 60 stores throughout the country, tying the global to the local.

MSU students continue to serve the greater community. Last year saw 11,274 students involved in Service Learning projects, up 32% from just two years ago. MSU’s urban planning students in cooperation with CEDP completed several community based projects designed to improve economic and energy self-sufficiency including: Williamstown Township and LEED Standards: Planning for the Future, December 2005; Building Energy Efficient Affordable Housing: A Strategic Goal for Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, December 2005; and The Causes and Consequences of Concentrated Urban Poverty, February 2005. CEDP is working with Urban Core Mayors in Michigan to assist in developing distressed urban areas. Last Spring they organized a conference (adhering to green conference principles) with OCS on utilizing university endowments, public pension funds, and foundation investments to spur economic development while enhancing and preserving environmental health. MSU’s “Small Town Design Initiative” assists small communities with populations of 500 to 15,000 with physical environmental design ideas for community development and land use using teams of faculty, students and community members.

In the past year under the leadership of President Lou Anna K. Simon, MSU has initiated and funded a private/public partnership, “Prima Civitas”. This effort is using a major WIRED grant to support regional economic development throughout mid-Michigan. The newly formed MSU Cultural Engagement Council are bringing MSU’s cultural resources to communities in Michigan offering more culturally diverse experiences, partnering with regional arts councils like Lansing’s Creative Futures Council and Jackson’s Armory Arts. The Music and Wellness program brings music therapy to Alzheimer patients, cancer survivors, retirees, and violent prone youth. Through “Nutrition Education Aimed at Toddlers” MSU researchers focus on nutritional education and intervention for low-income caregivers through Head Start Programs in the state.

We continue to be an active partner in the Central Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and with the state Department of Environmental Quality, where we recently signed a memorandum of understanding to assist DEQ with training and research related to their mission of protecting our environment. Led by MSU microbiologists hazardous carbon tetrachloride has been removed from the St. Joseph aquifer in Schoolcraft County.

The C. S. Mott Center for Sustainable Food Systems has been building linkages between local farmers and consumers integrating $1 million worth of local apples into K-12 schools.