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April 20, 2020

MSU celebrates sustainability successes during Earth Day 2020

On April 22, 2020, Michigan State University joins the world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. MSU is also celebrating its track record of progress in combating climate change and helping lead the way to a global sustainable future.

MSU achieved a GOLD rating in 2019 for its sustainability efforts in its third triennial assessment using the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking and Reporting System.

The university also was named a top 20 school in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges: 2019 EditionMSU is the only Big Ten school to appear in the top 50 colleges and universities.

Finding innovative ways to reduce MSU’s carbon footprint

In its goal to maximize the impact of campus while minimizing its footprint, Spartans continue to address the carbon footprint of campus buildings through significant energy efficiency measures, innovation and design.

  • MSU recently was recognized by the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Program for meeting its energy efficiency goal of a 20% reduction in energy use in 20 million square feet of buildings by 2020. The goal was achieved two years early.  
  • MSU’s newest residential community, 1855 Place, earned its LEED Silver Certification. 
  • The university is building the first mass-timber-constructed building in Michigan using sustainable cross-laminated timber. 

Powering campus with renewable energy

MSU continues to make progress toward its renewable energy (11.3%) and greenhouse gas reduction goals (nearly 30% reduction) established in the university’s Energy Transition Plan.  

  • MSU’s use of more than 17 million kWh of green energy is the equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 2,000 average American homes annually. 
  • The installation of North America’s largest solar carport on campus contributes to an increase of on-site renewable energy generation by more than 10%. MSU’s solar carports cover 5,000 parking spaces and produce a total estimated 15,000 MWh/year of solar energy.
  • MSU’s Solar Carports Renewable Energy Project received multiple recognitions: the EPA Green Leadership Award, Smart Energy Decisions Onsite Renewable Energy Award and the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan’s 2018 Innovative Project Award.
  • In May 2019, MSU was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of eight schools in the Big Ten conference to be named a national 2018-19 Collective Conference Champion for green energy use.

Making sustainability part of the campus culture

MSU’s 5,300-acre campus is home to leading research and cutting-edge technologies in sustainability, award-winning programs that shepherd environmental stewardship, as well as thousands of faculty, staff and students working to make a difference each day.

  • MSU has invested $8.5 million in alternative-fuel vehicles in its motor pool, including about 290 flex-fuel E85 vehicles and more than 60 hybrid vehicles, to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gases. 
  • The university is a recognized silver-level Bicycle Friendly University, further helping to reduce reliance on traditional fuel-burning vehicles.
  • MSU is transforming campus into a connected ecosystem to drive mobility research and development that advances smart vehicle technology.  

Reducing waste for a greener tomorrow

The university has grown engagement in sustainable activities through the Residential Housing Services Eco-Reps program for students and the Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Waste Warriors Program for faculty and staff. 

  • MSU’s premier LEED-certified Surplus Store and Recycling Center diverts more than half of its collected waste materials from landfills. See a virtual display of the campus recycling impact.
  • MSU Residential and Hospitality Services’ 2019 "Clean Plates at State" fall program recorded an average waste per patron of 2.96 ounces, down from 3.16 ounces the previous year, for a reduction in food waste of 24,982 pounds. 
  • RHS’ "Pack Up. Pitch In." is on its 23rd year of helping students move in and out of MSU more sustainably. The fall 2019 move-in diverted 64% of move-in waste materials like cardboard, plastic and paper. 
  • Retail Services at MSU has converted to strawless lids and plant-based straws, has discontinued plastic bags in retail stores and now exclusively serves fair-trade coffee.  

How Spartans can participate virtually in Earth Day 2020

This year the COVID-19 crisis means Earth Day events will be celebrated virtually for the first time, but there still are many opportunities for Spartans to get involved. Check out Sustainability at MSU,, Earthrise 2020,, or text “Earth” to 72727.  

Listen to MSUToday’s Earth Day Podcast, featuring environmental leaders at MSU who devote their time to the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the university and the planet. 

By: Amy Butler

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