Think green on Planet Blue: 3 easy ways to protect the environment while at work

April 20, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Envsteward, Updates & Resources,

With Earth Day approaching on Saturday, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the university’s commitment to sustainability on campus and consider how each employee can contribute to the cause.

The institution offers several programs aimed at helping faculty and staff become better stewards of the environment while at work, whether in a traditional office setting or unique spaces like research labs. (Restrictions apply in some patient care settings, so check with your supervisor.)

“At U-M, we want to be the Leaders and Best in sustainability. Everyone has a role to play in making that happen,” said Barb Hagan, a U-M sustainability representative.

Become a Planet Blue Ambassador

It’s quick and easy to become a champion of the environment at U-M through the Planet Blue Ambassadors program.

By completing five five-minute modules online, any faculty, staff or student can become certified as a Planet Blue Ambassador — giving them access to a monthly e-newsletter detailing environmental programs and events on campus, and invitations to participate in green challenges, such as riding a bike to work. Ambassadors also receive a free reusable water bottle or shopping bag.

Interested? Register online by visiting the Planet Blue ambassadors website.

Designate your area as a sustainable workplace

Engage colleagues in sustainability by having your department or unit designated as a sustainable workplace. To earn the distinction, staff members must voluntarily adopt behaviors that lessen environmental impact by identifying current gaps in sustainability and implementing best practices to address them.

To get started, complete an online self-assessment of your current work environment. The assessment covers topics ranging from the types of lightbulbs used to how accessible recycling bins are in your area.

Once the questionnaire is completed, a member of the Office of Campus Sustainability will conduct a walkthrough to informally offer other suggestions. When those suggestions are adopted, the unit will receive certification and recognition on the campus sustainability website.

“Faculty and staff members who commit to creating a sustainable workplace are doing their part to reduce their impact on the environment,” Hagan said. “And if everyone at U-M does their small part, the university as a whole will make a huge impact.”

Adopt sustainable lab practices

For those who carry out research, the university offers a sustainable labs program aimed at limiting pollution, utilizing green chemistry, saving energy and increasing chemical recycling.

“Every lab has a different goal for how they can become more sustainable,” said Sudhakar Reddy, Ph.D., sustainability coordinator of the program. “Some labs can substitute safer chemicals for the highly-toxic ones currently used. Others may be able to improve how they manage hazardous waste or join our ChEM Reuse program, where we collect chemicals each Friday to be recycled and used by other labs on campus.”

The labs program is similar to the sustainable workplaces program, including a self-assessment and staff visit. The Sun Laboratory in the North Campus Research Complex was recently certified as a sustainable lab and is now recognized online along with others on campus.

“The program has helped us minimize the use of energy and hazardous materials,” said Jinhui Liao, Sun lab manager. “We eliminated the use of ethidium bromide, mercury thermometers and radioactive materials. Not only do we now work in a safer workplace, but we are also helping to keep our planet clean.”

For more information on all sustainability initiatives on campus, visit the Planet Blue website.