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Posted on Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Planet Blue Ambassadors program at University of Michigan will encourage sustainability in residence halls

By Ben Freed

The University of Michigan is launching a new student program to encourage sustainable living in its residence halls.

Students who sign up for Planet Blue Ambassadors will participate in a two-credit course featuring class lectures as well as practical application of sustainable initiatives in their residence halls.

The course is a collaboration among the Graham Institute, University Housing, the Office of Campus Sustainability, the Staff Environmental Stewardship Team, and the Student Sustainability Initiative.

Lydia McMullen Laird, a senior at Michigan, has served on the board of the Student Sustainability Initiative and is the student coordinator for the new program. Student ambassadors might conduct a waste or environmental audit in their residence halls, lead a workshop on environmental issues, and model good leadership skills for other students, according to the program's website.

“It is a class, but it’s more than that,” she said. “It’s a bit like a job … in a volunteer kind of sense.”

Laird’s description highlights the hybrid nature of the course. According to Peter Logan, communications director for University Housing, the program is based on the idea of “eco-reps” popular at many schools around the country.

“Other schools have used volunteer or stipend-based programs. We wanted to take a curriculum-based approach,” he said. “It’s the best of two worlds, and the info and training they’re getting is grounded in good solid academic teaching, but there will be certain expectations of their work in the res halls. It isn’t simply a matter of doing the reading and coming to class.”

Logan and Laird said reaching out to freshmen made sense because they make up the majority of students living in residence halls.

“If we can encourage sustainable living behavior within our residential students, it’s the kind of practice and attitude that they take with them beyond their residential living and out into the community,” Logan said.

There is also a staff component to the program. According to a press release, the Voices of Staff Environmental Stewardship Team will be meeting with the class every two weeks to help the program integrate its efforts with the wider campus.

“The ultimate program goal is to create a culture of sustainability across all University of Michigan units,” according to the release.

The 25 students who will be selected to participate in the program will be responsible for starting a sustainability initiative in their residence halls that will count for a portion of their grade.

University Housing has been actively recruiting students to apply for the program at freshman orientation sessions, as well as through emails to students who will be living in university housing in the fall. Additionally, students receive information about the program with their housing assignment.

“We already have quite a few applications,” Laird said. “Our application process is open until August 14 on a rolling basis. We hope to have all 25 spots filled by then.”

The program is not open to students living off campus this year, but it could open up in the future.

“This is a pilot that right now we want to stay focused on residential students,” Logan said. “There may be way for the ambassadors to extend their knowledge to people not living in their communities, but first and foremost this is a community program, a residence program.”

Click here to view student criteria, more information on the program, or to apply to the program.

Ben Freed is a summer intern at You can reach him by email at or by phone at (734)-623-4674. Follow him on Twitter @BFreedInA2.


Tom Whitaker

Sun, Jul 31, 2011 : 11:38 a.m.

Any benefits derived from these small individual efforts will be wiped out in spades by the UM/City's building of a massive parking structure on park land next to the hospital. That proposed structure, beyond the waste generated by its construction, will attract hundreds of single-occupancy-vehicles to campus every day. In other parts of town, UM continues to buy up viable housing where students, faculty and staff could live within walking distance, and replace it with new parking structures and other buildings. The best thing students could do for the environment is to protest and stop the relentless building of parking structures and encourage the UM administration to promote housing for all that is close to campus.

G. Orwell

Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

@UM "Global warming or not, these are all great things. And with the largest state funding cut in the history of UMich and some of the highest housing fees in the Big Ten, saving energy can have an enormous financial benefit.." I agree. However, things like this, particularly when large organization are in place, can easily morph into far more restrictive and dangerous thing. Why not put signs up and continue to remind people to conserve rather than having the green police. Have you seen the new green Volkswagen commercial? They actually have the green police in Australia and New York city. The fake green movement is about control. That is why they are targeting CO2.


Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

Having lived for two years in University residence halls, I can vouch for what undoubtedly amounts to tens of thousands of dollars of energy waste each year. There will be more of a focus on the educational aspect of teaching residents easy ways to clip energy usage, reduce garbage production, and increase recycling rates. Global warming or not, these are all great things. And with the largest state funding cut in the history of UMich and some of the highest housing fees in the Big Ten, saving energy can have an enormous financial benefit. Too often, you find windows wide open in these buildings during the winter, empty rooms with incandescent lights blaring 24/7, and students who are simply too lazy to recycle (even though there is no sorting and the University gives each room a recycling bin). For those who think this is a bad program, remember that while the ambassadors will do their best to curb energy waste, their fellow tenants don't have to listen...

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

As if living in a converted triple isn't bad enough. Now you might have a roommate monitoring your toilet-paper use and switching out your desk lamp for a swatch of brightly-colored kelp.

G. Orwell

Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

Obviously those that still believe in man-made global warming have only been listening to those that have been preaching to the choir. If you get a wide point of view and really pay attention to the facts, you will realize man-made global warming is a hoax. If you look at the science, it is an absolute joke. CO2 has nothing to do with global warming. It only makes up .0384% of all greenhouse gases. And, how is CO2 an evil gas when plants need it to grow. It is insane what smart people can be led to believe. Tell a big lie and repeat it over and over again and people will come to believe it. That is called propaganda. The key person behind the manipulated temperature data, Prof. Phil Jones, now admits there has not been any global warming since 1995. Thus, the whole man-made global warming scare is a hoax. Which means sea levels won't rise 20 feet and all major cities along the oceans will not be flooded. A classic scare tactic to make the masses acquiesce to their agenda and will. It is called rule by fear. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Also, there are over 31,000 scientists that have signed a petition denying man-made global warming. It is called the Petition Project. Some professors from U of M have signed the petition. Look it up.

G. Orwell

Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

Man-made global warming has been proven to be an absolute fraud. Yet, certain people continue to push the agenda. Recently, even NASA admitted that CO2 has much less effect trapping heat and that the entire computer modeling used to push man-made global warming was flawed. I am all for energy conservation and renewable energies but this green movement is getting way out of hand. Developing into a nanny state that will turn into a police state. Let's use common sense and good science to do the right thing.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

What would filling your small, rigidly enclosed garage have to do with the atmosphere? Maybe you'd have a point if there were several quadrillion cars on the earth, stacked on top of each other to the height of Mt. Everest, all working at once. We're not &quot;deniers.&quot; We simply want tangible evidence that this is a man-made phenomenon before imposing the largest tax increase in the history of mankind. One that will kill tens of millions of people in vulnerable countries. So far, the &quot;science&quot; of anthropomorphic climate change is the equivalent of using a garage to model the atmosphere, and riddled with frauds who understand that the only way to get grant money is to find &quot;evidence&quot; supporting the socialist position.


Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 2 p.m.

You are wrong on the facts, but just keep pushing what the right wing whack jobs tell you on Faux News <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I suggest to all deniers out there to start your car, close the garage door, and sit in it for about an hour. If you think that is healthy, then I suggest you believe smoking tobacco is healthy as well. OR, if you would like, move your home next to a coal fired power plant. Tell me how that works for you. Bathe in the output from it. Any person with an ounce of common sense knows the emissions from cars and coal plants are not healthy for humans or the planet. The science is clear and overwhelming. The same people deny evolution, the earth being flat, and the earth revolving around the sun. The major question would be this. If I am wrong versus if you are wrong, which is the bigger risk. The answer is obvious.


Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Orwell: could you provide some citations on the proof that man-made global warming 'has been proven to be an absolute fraud'? Could you cite some science organization or scientist who has said and proven this?


Sat, Jul 30, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

The article notes that other schools pay the students a stipend. At U-M, the residence halls will get their own in-house green police--not just for free, but they have to pay for two credit hours worth of tuition and full residence hall room and board fees too! That's the Michigan Difference...