The Office of Campus Sustainability, Planet Blue, and Grounds Services

Photo Credit: Savanna Delise

The office of campus sustainability: Achieving sustainable operations that influence successful pollinator conservation

The Office of Campus Sustainability was established in 2009 and is a department of Facilities and Operations, which is the organization responsible for stewardship of the university’s natural and physical properties and landscapes. The Office of Campus Sustainability is dedicated to actively contributing towards the implementation of the university’s six sustainability goals and works to:

  1. Inspire students, faculty, and staff to become involved in helping to solve the environmental sustainability issues facing the world we live in
  2. Coordinate, facilitate and advance  sustainability efforts in all areas of the university campus, including operations, academics, research, clinical, and athletics
  3. Connect academic and operations activities to foster collaborative sustainability learning

Photo Credit: Photo submission from 2020 Survey 123 Pollinator Habitat Assessment Survey

The mission of the Office of Campus Sustainability has four key components that enhance the university’s overall sustainability goals. These components are:

  1. Work with U-M leadership to set goals and standards for sustainable operations on our campus. Work with the units across campus to ensure those goals and standards are met. Track and report progress on university-wide goals to leadership.
  2. Identify, support, and coordinate opportunities to reduce energy consumption and increase sustainable operations on campus that may go beyond what is required to meet campus goals.
  3. Work collaboratively with the Graham Sustainability Institute on cross-functional sustainability efforts that span academic, research and operational functions of the university.
  4. Provide information exchange and be responsible for communicating to internal and external constituents about efforts underway and challenges associated with sustainability work on campus.

Photo Credit: Photo submission from 2020 Survey 123 Pollinator Habitat Assessment Survey

Planet Blue: Enhancing Sustainability goals

For over a decade, the University of Michigan has been a driving leader in environmental sustainability. In September of 2011, the university adopted six long-term sustainability goals that enhance the overall commitment of practicing sustainability. Through a Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment process (CSIA), these goals were identified and established by the university. The CSIA was an intensive two-year long project that was led by the Graham Sustainability Institute and the Office of Campus Sustainability that involved students, faculty, and staff on faculty-led committees. Participants of this program were representative of 101 organizational units and 27 academic programs. The purpose behind the assessment was to identify ambitious and attainable long-term sustainability goals. The six long-term sustainability goals that were developed through the CSIA initiative guide the University of Michigan’s efforts to live, work, and learn sustainably.

Planet Blue’s campus Sustainability initiative focuses on four key areas:

  1. Community Engagement
  2. Climate Action
  3. Waste Reduction
  4. Healthy Environments

Planet Blue continuously empowers our campus’s community with a unifying commitment to overall sustainability through powerful and positive environmental action that simultaneously works to enhance pollinator conservation throughout our campus.

Grounds Services: helping create healthy pollinator habitats

who are they?

Working together with the Office of Campus Sustainability, the University of Michigan’s Grounds Services play a crucial role in directly managing landscapes on campus, and therefore the potential to affect pollinator habitat. Grounds Services is a branch of the Custodial & Grounds Services Department, which, like the Office of Campus Sustainability, belongs to the larger organization of the university’s Facilities and Operations. Custodial and Grounds Services are dedicated to the preservation of the natural land on the academic and hospital campuses within Ann Arbor by conserving, enhancing, and maintaining over 26 million square feet of property.

what do they do?

They provide custodial services, pest management, grounds maintenance, and landscape design services in the support of a safe, functional, and attractive campus environment. Grounds Services are responsible for the outdoor properties and landscapes of the U-M’s Ann Arbor Campus. They consist of specialized crews who provide horticulture and grounds keeping maintenance for the entire university. These professional crews that make up the Grounds Services department specialize in one of seven areas: forestry, hardscape & mowing, horticulture & gardens, irrigation, winter maintenance & snow removal, turf maintenance, and landscape design & installation.

(Photo Credit: Photo submission from 2020 Survey 123 Pollinator Habitat Assessment Survey)

The work of Grounds Services that is guided by U-M’s Sustainable Land Management Guidelines has led to the overall increased success of campus-wide pollinator conservation as these guidelines include:

  1. Organic and low-impact herbicides and fertilizers where possible. 80% of campus lawns are managed using organic fertilizer.
  2. Improving soil quality to reduce the need for fertilizer and supplemental irrigation
  3. Expanding natural areas and planting native trees and shrubs
  4. Prescribed burns and the use of goats to control invasive plants
(Photo Credit: Grounds Services Sustainable Grounds Photo Story)

The University of Michigan uses many distinct and interconnected approaches to manage landscapes sustainably, from bees and goats to prairies and stormwater management. In the visual photo story “Sustainable Grounds”, you can learn about some of the many ways the university Grounds Services are working to keep chemicals out of the Huron River and to make habitats more healthy and resilient. Check out the link below to learn more!

(Photo Credit: Photo submission from 2020 Survey 123 Pollinator Habitat Assessment Survey)

The University of Michigan’s Grounds Services have been and continuously are engaging in creating sustainable grounds on campus through various practices that support pollinator conservation. Sustainable practices include expanding natural areas and landscape, managing invasive species through the use of goats as natural lawnmowers, working with fire through prescribed burns to enrich soil, remove dead vegetation, and prevent non-native plants from taking over, maintaining healthy gardens and forestry, composting, and stormwater management. Grounds Services strives to maintain the campus landscape using the latest technologies and strategies to reduce chemical use and our carbon footprint.