New to Planet Blue? Tips on finding the student org that’s right for you

Have you ever found yourself wanting to engage in the sustainability community on campus but struggling to navigate the different student organizations? Let’s face it, finding a sustainability organization is hard sometimes! It can be confusing and overwhelming, especially since we have more than 122 organizations tagged as “environmental” on Maize Pages.

Astrid, Grace, and Harrison smile for the camera during their Planet Blue Student Leader meeting.
Left to Right: Grace, Harrison, and Astrid.

The three of us have reflected that when we were first-years, we knew we wanted to join an environmental or sustainability organization, but after attending Festifall and signing up for dozens of listservs, we still felt like we didn’t even know where to start. Many of our friends shared the same experiences, so you are not alone. What helped us was going to sustainability events hosted by orgs on campus and just taking that step to get involved even if we weren’t technically “in” the club.

First Steps: Festifall and Maize Pages

The first places you may think to check out any student organizations are likely Maize Pages or large-scale club recruiting events like Festifall or Winterfest. Although these sources can be helpful in that they attract many different clubs and contain a lot of information, they can also be overwhelming.

One way to make Maize Pages more helpful in your search is to check the category “Environmental.” In that way, you can filter the organizations on campus down to the ones that are related to the environment. From there, it becomes easier to find clubs that are specifically sustainability-related and can fill a niche that you enjoy. Also, there is a curated list of active sustainability organizations on campus on the Planet Blue website.

Although Maize Pages is a great first step, attending sustainability events in person and talking to people is much more informative and engaging. For bigger events like Festifall, we recommend limiting yourself to a few organizations that really interest you. Sign up for their mailing lists and commit to going to at least one meeting. You can always change your mind later, but focusing on one or two groups is more manageable than trying to go to dozens of mass meetings. Remember, signing up for emails isn’t a lifelong contract.

Attending Sustainability Events

If you missed Festifall, there’s no need to fear! There are still many opportunities to get involved with sustainable causes on campus. For example, one of the best ways to find a club to join is to go to the many events dedicated to sustainability that happen on campus. 

A great way to keep updated on current sustainability events is following the work of the Student Life Sustainability department. This department employs students whose job it is to keep you informed and engaged with sustainability on campus. 

Keep your eyes peeled for events like Earthfest and Harvestfest in the fall, the U-M Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP)’s summit in spring, and the Summit hosted by the Student Sustainability Coalition once per semester. Events like these can be a great chance to meet fellow students who are just as passionate about the environment as you are and talk to them about what it’s like to be in their organization. 

The Student Sustainability Coalition’s weekly newsletter often features sustainability-related events, student organizations, and more straight to your email. Social media is also a great way to keep updated on current events. You can follow the Planet Blue Student Leaders at @umich_pbsl and the Student Sustainability Coalition at @umichssc

Ask Your Friends and Professors

There are sustainability classes at U-M open to all majors. These will usually be taught by Program in the Environment, or labeled as ENVIRON in the course guide. Environment and sustainability classes are a great way to get involved and find clubs. Often, faculty will recommend club events, let students know when clubs are recruiting new members, and even advise projects for student clubs. Plus, it’s a great way to get distribution credit. 

Also, feel free to ask people you already know about the organizations they may be involved with. This can be a more casual way to get personalized information about clubs you are interested in. If jumping into a completely new environment is intimidating, maybe ask to go to a meeting with your friend!

What The Heck Is Planet Blue?

When looking to join sustainability orgs on campus, you may wonder, as we did in the past, can I join Planet Blue? It’s not a ridiculous thing to think, since we get emails from things related to Planet Blue all the time. This is the Planet Blue Ambassador blog, so it would make sense that students can join this organization, right? 

As it turns out, Planet Blue is not an organization at all, rather it is the University of Michigan’s brand for its commitment to sustainability. This was a surprise to us when we first found out, but the way it works actually makes a lot of sense. 

Under the Planet Blue brand are multiple schools, units, departments, and programs within the University, all working together to forward the University’s climate and sustainability goals. Think of it more as a shared set of goals than a defined body.

So while you can’t join Planet Blue itself, you can help to forward the University’s Planet Blue vision immediately by becoming a Planet Blue Ambassador, which any student can do through a short training on Canvas. Sometimes, their staff will come present to your org or residence hall if you have a group of people interested. This also is not an organization itself, rather a certification for you to pursue sustainability independently with support and resources such as the Planet Blue Ambassador blog (which you are reading now), the newsletter, online resource toolkit, and more. 

If you want to become even more involved with the University’s sustainability goals, consider applying for one of the many Student Life Sustainability jobs such as Planet Blue Student Leaders or the Sustainable Food Program. These are not clubs, but opportunities to go above and beyond, since most of these positions for students require applications and are paid year-long commitments.

So What Should I Do?

The bottom line: go to events, talk to people, and get out there! Not everything you try is going to be for you, and that’s okay, but trying and having an experience that you don’t like as much will lead to finding the organization that is perfect for you. Facing climate change will require collective action, and this is one way you can play your part as a college student. 

Still not sure where to start? Check out this short interactive quiz from our very own blog that will assign one or two sustainability clubs based on your responses!