The Unsung Sustainability Journey of the Inn at the Michigan League

The Michigan League has been a part of my life since before I was born. Back in the 1980s, when my dad came to visit his grandparents in Ann Arbor, they would sometimes eat lunch at the League buffet— this was before the dawn of Maizie’s Cafe. My Nana would always order the prime rib and mashed potatoes, her favorite dish. Then, thirty five years later, when visiting Ann Arbor as a child, I sat on a couch in the League and people watched, imagining myself as a student here. While the League is a well-known establishment, many do not know about the Inn at the Michigan League on the fourth floor. I heard about it for the first time last summer!

The Exterior of the Michigan League featuring a fountain
The exterior of the Michigan League

The Inn at the Michigan League is the only public hotel on campus, welcoming anyone regardless of their affiliation with the University. Most guests stay here when attending University events, such as football games and conferences, and it is a popular place to stay for alumni wanting to spend extra time on our campus. 

Photo of Xavier Wilson in a bright shirt in front of a brick background.
Xavier Wilson, Director of the Michigan League

I recently had the honor of speaking with Xavier Wilson, who has been the director of the Michigan League for the past nine years. Xavier leads operations, oversees the building event calendar, and manages the Inn at the Michigan League, all while maintaining a strong sense of community among the League staff. In recent years, he has been researching ways in which the Inn can further integrate sustainability into their operations. 

Existing Efforts at the Inn at the Michigan League

One key feature about the Inn’s sustainability efforts is that when staff members are onboarded, they become certified Planet Blue Ambassadors. By training their employees, the Inn strengthens its commitment to and culture of sustainability. 

Another sustainable practice is related to the Inn’s linen change process. Unless a guest requests otherwise, linens will only be switched out after three days or at the end of a guest’s stay instead of every day. This shortens the turnaround time to refresh a room, reduces water use, and decreases the wear and tear on both the bedsheets and their washing machines. 

The Inn’s biggest sustainability efforts thus far have been in the area of waste reduction. One aspect of this is composting. In the Inn’s lobby, they have a coffee and tea bar where you can compost coffee grounds, tea bags, post-consumer food scraps, and the provided compostable ware. 

Image of the coffee bar at the inn featuring a compost bin and compostable cups.
The Inn’s coffee and tea bar includes a compost station

Another aspect of this is the way they donate partially used soaps and other amenities to the Clean the World program. The Inn at the Michigan League is one of more than 8,100 hotels participating in Clean the World, a program that has reduced 24 million pounds of waste by distributing 73 million bars of soap and 5 million hygiene kits.

Green bins of personal care products in bottles and soap bars being stored for shipment to be processed and redistributed.
Bottles of personal care products and bars of soap to be reused

Future Vision for Sustainability Efforts

The Inn at the Michigan League is early on its sustainability journey, but Xavier is excited about the Inn’s future and has numerous ideas for possible sustainability-related projects. To further reduce their waste, the hotel manager is looking to purchase bathroom amenities in larger containers to reduce unnecessary packaging. Xavier is also hoping to implement an electronic check-in system as well as electronic door locks. With this, no registration paperwork or hotel keycards would be printed so they would see greater operational efficiency. This would save resources and money long term. Another possibility is investing in occupancy sensors and a heating and cooling trigger system that reduces energy use when people are not in their rooms. Lastly, to engage guests who stay at the Inn with their sustainability efforts, the goal is to introduce signage promoting behaviors such as turning off the lights and using less water. 

The Inn at the Michigan League is committed to becoming a beacon of change both as a U of M institution and as a business in the hospitality industry. After hearing about the Michigan League my entire life, I appreciated the opportunity to meet its director and to learn more about its behind-the-scenes operations!

Check out this cool video to see what the inside of the hotel looks like.