Sustainability Tips for Incoming Students

New school year, new tips! We’ve refreshed the information below for the 2021-2022 school year. Welcome Wolverines!


This month, thousands of new students, both undergraduate and graduate, will be preparing to start their first semester at the University of Michigan. Picking classes, completing required orientation materials, figuring out financial aid and housing, moving, meeting new classmates – it’s a lot to mentally prepare for. So, with the help of a few colleagues and several returning students who are a part of the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC), I’ve gathered together some tips that can help you start your college journey in a sustainable way.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction

  • Turn off the lights when you do not need them, and keep the windows closed in your residence hall room. Both these steps can be impactful ways to save energy. 
  • Get in the habit of unplugging electronics whenever you are not using them or using a power strip to turn them off completely. Encourage those you live with to do the same!

Fuel Efficiency

  • You’ll receive free use of Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA) transportation with your MCard. It can be incredibly helpful to get around town, but a surprising number of people don’t know about it!
  • Walk, bike, and ride the bus to get around campus. U-M offers resources like bike parking maps and live-tracking of U-M buses to make getting around sustainably that much easier.

Waste Reduction

  • Coordinate with your roommates so you don’t bring unnecessary duplicates. You’ll both save money and space.
  • It’s always really useful to have a set of reusable utensils, a water bottle, and a small container for left-overs in your backpack.
  • Learn the rules for disposing of waste on campus. Note: they may be different from the rules in your hometown!
  • During residence hall move-in, bring cardboard boxes, styrofoam, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap to the loading dock to be recycled.

Protecting the Huron River

  • Wash your laundry only when you have a full load, and consider rewearing items that are still fresh to cut back on the number of wash cycles you need to do.
  • It turns out that people typically consume much more water through buying new products (produced using water) rather than by taking showers or washing clothes. So, shop second hand! It’s incredibly efficient from both a resource and an economical standpoint.

Sustainable Food

  • If you are on a tight budget or restrained from getting to a grocery store, visit the Maize and Blue Cupboard for equitable access to healthy, nutritious foods.
  • Choose plant-based foods. Research shows that meat, particularly beef, has an outsized impact on greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental metrics.
  • Attend Harvest Festival! On September 26th from 1-4pm, adventure to the U-M Campus farm for an afternoon full of fun where you can meet other people passionate about local, sustainable food.

Community Engagement

  • If you are interested in getting involved in sustainability on campus, there’s a way! As you start to explore opportunities, it can be helpful to start with this list of existing student organizations focused on sustainability.
  • Sign up for the Student Sustainability Coalition’s sustainability updates for students. This quick and fun update each week will keep you in-the-know! 
  • Attend Earthfest! On September 23rd from 10-2pm, stop by the central campus Diag to learn more about sustainability efforts on campus and meet groups involved in the work.

Current Planet Blue Ambassadors, what tips would you give to incoming students? Incoming students, let us know what questions you have that we didn’t cover, and feel free to share your own tips too!

1 thought on “Sustainability Tips for Incoming Students”

  1. As a future wolverine attending the University of Michigan and a member of the Sustainable Living Experience, I will be sure to employ these tips during my stay on campus and become an advocate for sustainability. Admittedly, I do have some bad environmental habits that I should break and I hope that by attending the University of Michigan I can transform myself into a person who can carry the spirit of our blue planet!

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