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Wayne State University's Sustainability Efforts

When people think of the city of Detroit they think of ‘Motor City,’ ‘Motown.’ Sustainable solutions are not on the forefront when people picture our burgeoning industrial city. Wayne State University serves as the hub of research and innovation in Detroit and it produces many young professionals who are set to lead our city into the future. As we look towards sustainable solutions in new building projects, research, and daily life, it is a place that allows us to thoughtfully conceptualize how to make our city green. The WSU Office of Campus Sustainability was founded in 2011 and has held a strong presence in many aspects of WSU and Detroit decision making. Our mission is to enhance environmental stewardship at WSU by serving as a conduit to the various schools, departments, and offices to better connect the university’s sustainability initiatives as well as encourage, promote, and develop sustainable practices and programs in and around the campus community. We help to engage all sectors of the university to decrease our environmental impact by implementing various initiatives identified as helping to improve its triple bottom line of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. These solutions are essential to meeting our current needs without sacrificing the needs of future generations. In taking this approach, we embrace our role as environmental stewards for the campus as well as the global community.

WSU’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Daryl Pierson, our team, and others around campus have been working tirelessly on many different initiatives to accomplish those goals. For each initiative, we use a two-pronged approach that includes education to the entire campus community as well as thoughtful rollout of plans that include many different departments and areas of the university. For example, WSU has begun focusing on ways that we can improve the way that we are hitting each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (USDG) that were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015. This effort included conducting an analysis ensuring that there were groups, initiatives, and plans on campus to improve every goal. In this way, we ensured that we were focusing not only on environmental sustainability but on all aspects of improving the sustainability of our community. So many departments and initiatives at WSU fulfill these goals. For example, the Wayne State High Program is in place to help homeless, precariously housed, and financially challenged students persist in their goal to earn a degree which helps decrease the effect that poverty and constrained finances have on our students. WSU also partners with community partners to make our city more sustainable. Through the Midtown Connection Shuttles, MOGO, and partnering with the Detroit Department of Transportation, we help increase sustainable mobility and help our sustainable city. In addition to these partnerships, our office helps to increase participation by ensuring that educational components accompany each of our initiatives. For example, we have a bi-annual Green Ride partnered with the Sierra Club, which consists of a bicycle tour of downtown Detroit that highlights local green infrastructure and the benefits of commuting by bike. We also offer transportation to students who may not have the means through our partnership with Zipcar, a car sharing service, to offer alternative transportation 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Transportation Ambassadors at our school have also partnered with DDOT to secure free 31-day Dart passes for enrolled students. These initiatives make up only a fraction of our campus’ efforts to green our community but each has its own special impact on our student body and the way they think about sustainability.

Our initiatives touch every corner of our university’s life. In order to better our educational capacity, we are in the midst of increasing the sustainable curriculum on campus to truly make it a part of every student’s life. This includes ensuring that there are options for students in different disciplines to study sustainability in all of its different areas, whether socially, environmentally, or economically. To improve our impact on the Earth, we look towards innovative solutions to reduce our waste. Through our efforts we attempt to improve the way that WSU thinks about and interacts with the Earth to produce the next generations of green thinkers and innovators. Through our on-campus initiatives, community partnerships, and research WSU seeks to be a leader in sustainability by leading by example and leading green.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering nearly 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 27,000 students.

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