University of Michigan Sustainability Goals

University of Michigan Sustainability Goals

World Centric + University of Michigan

The University of Michigan is leading the way in their efforts to achieve waste reduction and carbon neutrality. Among their many sustainability goals is their plan to reduce waste by 40% by 2025.

World Centric caught up with Anya Dale, Sustainable Systems and Waste Reduction Manager and Nicole Berg, Zero Waste Program Manager at the UofM Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS) in November of 2023 to learn more about their goals and achievements.

Given that the State of Michigan does not provide much policy around waste management or sustainability regulations like other states in the U.S., the commitment and progress on the U-M campus is unparalleled in this part of the country.

“Our program successes are even more impressive since it is all internally motivated,” said Nicole. Projects tend to be the most successful and easier to implement if there is leadership direction like from the Presidential Initiatives, Deans or other top decision makers, and of course from students to drive new projects.” Leadership and efforts from campus partners such as Michigan Dining are critical to the success of composting at U-M. The OCS makes a concerted and intentional effort to welcome people into the Zero Waste programs they have created.

Composting and recycling are clearly marked and standardized across campus to make it easier for students to sort their items.

“Our program successes are even more impressive since it is all internally motivated”
Nicole Berg, Zero Waste Program Manager

What sets U-M apart is the multi-pronged programming and the dedicated staff members measuring it and moving it forward. The OCS executes creative and effective strategies all year long. Examples include:

Trainings and Signage

Support and Partnerships

Ongoing Programs

  • Performing visual audits of waste receptacles in strategic areas within categories of buildings to evaluate successes and identify contamination difficulties requiring intervention
  • Zero Waste Event Support

When asked what made them most proud about the current state of the Zero Waste program across campus, Anya said “It’s not just about one thing since our program is so comprehensive. We are meticulous in how we go about expanding the program by providing training, placing bins, and monitoring collection success before making a new collection location permanent.”

With 158 buildings already composting, all MDining facilities composting pre and post-consumer materials, and compost bins in over 700 staff kitchens across campus, the program has started a cultural shift of which to be proud. While there is admittedly still work to be done, continuing the momentum under the current program parameters is incredibly important to continue progressing.

Alex Dryden & Nancy Fulcher (U-M Office of Campus Sustainability) with Rufus, the sustainability mascot. Rufus plays an important role of keeping waste reduction top of mind in a fun, inviting way.

In the Spring of 2023, after receiving word that their current compost processor was changing the items they would accept in the bins, the Office of Campus Sustainability and MDining invested time over a greater part of the summer and fall working to provide a solution to keep the current campus-wide sorting practices intact. MDining investigated options for compostable supplies, while committing to ensuring all products used have BPI certification. OCS rolled up their sleeves and worked with local resources to find a new compost service provider, albeit further away, that would allow them to continue to compost the full range of items that U-M participants have been trained to do for over six years. Read more about Spurt Industries below.

The commitment shown by the Office of Campus Sustainability to progress is unparalleled. They have created a model program to be replicated across other campuses. The data proves its success. Learn more at the link below.


Written by

World Centric


Read time

7 minutes


Published on

Dec 12, 2023


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