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April 21, 2021

MSU celebrates sustainability successes during Earth Day 2021

On April 22, 2021, Michigan State University joins the world in celebrating the 51st 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 achieved through its four pillars of success: campus, curriculum, community and culture.

Michigan State’s leadership and progress in sustainability has been recognized through numerous national recognitions programs.

In 2019, MSU achieved a GOLD rating 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 continues to lead by example as it is the only Big Ten school to appear in the top 50 colleges and universities in Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges: 2021 Edition.

Graphic with Spartans in Action logo and button with text "give now", and text "support university sustainability and research"

Making sustainability part of campus culture

Bikes on bike racks outside of Wells Hall
Bicycling across campus remains one of the most popular and efficient methods of getting around. Bicycles parked outside Wells Hall.

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 Libraries has been designated a climate resilience hub by the American Library Association and is conducting programs in concert with the Greater Lansing Food Bank and the Refugee Development Center.
  • The university has been recognized as a gold-level Bicycle Friendly University, further helping to reduce reliance on traditional fuel-burning vehicles. There are 15 active gold-level designations in the United States.
  • MSU earned a gold level designation from the “Exercise is Medicine On Campus” program for the 6th year in a row. 
  • Times Higher Education Impact Rankings released its 2021 rankings, which assesses higher education institutions' progress against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in three main areas: research, outreach and stewardship. MSU placed No. 1 in the nation and No. 4 in the world on the goal of “Zero Hunger.” And in the top 100 in SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals.”

Finding innovative ways to reduce MSU’s carbon footprint

1855 Place
1855 Place offers students a variety of apartment and townhouse-style living options close to campus resources.

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.

Powering campus with renewable energy

Solar panels
MSU's solar carport is the largest solar carport in North America.

MSU continues to make progress toward its renewable energy (11.2%) and greenhouse gas reduction goals (approximately 36.5% 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.

Reducing waste for a greener tomorrow

Students wearing
Students from Clean Plates at State conduct audits of food waste in dining halls. Photo taken pre-pandemic.

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. 

Preparing the pathway to a global sustainable future through curriculum and research

Shadows logo on a tree trunk cutting
MSU Shadows partners with Michigan artisans to repurpose campus trees into handmade works of art.
  • MSU has over 600 courses incorporating sustainability into the curriculum or experiential learning.
  • The Alliance for African Partnership furthers the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in all of its programs with Goal 17 — Partnerships for the Goals being foundational to the AAP’s vision, mission and priority areas.
  • The cross-disciplinary Sociomobility Coalition was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to establish a Research Experience for Undergraduates site in sociomobility, which focuses on research at the intersection of engineering and the social sciences as it relates to connected and autonomous vehicles. 
  • Faculty and students from Community Sustainability and Forestry Departments conducted an analysis and published a report finding that the MSU Shadows Sustainable Wood Recovery Initiative led to 50.15 metric tons of avoided CO2 emissions or approximately 34.2% of total emissions without the SWRI over the three-year period. 
  • Students gain experiential learning while improving the campus 11 solar lights installed at CATA bus stops as part of Sustainable Spartans experiential learning project funded by Ford Motor Company Fund.

How Spartans can participate virtually in Earth Day 2021

Installing solar panel at CATA bus stop
Solar-powered lighting at a CATA bus stop on MSU's campus.

This year Michigan State has been celebrating Earth Day all April long with events and programs offered at MSU and beyond. Take the Spartan Sustainability Pledge. To participate in further upcoming events including the Spartan Arbor Day 5K, visit Earth Month 2021.

To learn more about sustainability and Earth Day, visit SustainAbility Institute, and

By: Beth Brauer, Amy Butler and Laura Young

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