In only one month, more than 1,000 University of Michigan (U-M) faculty, staff, and students have become certified as “Planet Blue Ambassadors," whereby they receive training on effective ways to reduce environmental impact and lead sustainability efforts on campus and beyond.
As part of the program, Ambassadors pledge to take environmentally responsible actions in each of the university’s five sustainability commitment areas: energy, food, waste, water, and community awareness. To date, more than 1,000 inaugural Ambassadors have made more than 26,000 pledges of action, with more than 12,000 actions completed to date.
The Planet Blue Ambassador program is coordinated through the Graham Sustainability Institute as the key behavioral change component of Planet Blue, the multi-faceted Presidential Sustainability Initiative at the university.
“Perhaps even more impressive than the number of certifications is that we have seen engagement from an extremely diverse set of stakeholders at the University, including strong participation from the University of Michigan Health System,” stated Don Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute and President Coleman’s special counsel on sustainability. Participants come from across U-M’s Ann Arbor campus, including more than 600 staff members, nearly 350 students, and 55 faculty members.
To become certified, U-M community members complete five online training modules focused on the University’s sustainability goal areas. The most popular and unique element of each module is the interactive activity or game, such as the “Reduce Your Food Impact” game where user creates a virtual meal and calculates the carbon emissions of their food selections. Users are then challenged to reduce their impact by exchanging foods.
Ambassadors can update their pledges, access additional resources about sustainability, and revisit training content on their personalized online dashboard. Each month, the program hosts information sessions, trainings, outings, and discussion opportunities for Ambassadors. Some ambassadors are also forming “Planet Blue Green Teams,” working with friends and co-workers to discover the best path to sustainability for themselves and their workplace. This approach has proven to be very effective in inducing lasting behavioral changes across diverse settings.
“With the wide range of individuals in our community, we can share experiences, interests, and knowledge to create a culture of sustainability here at U-M,” states program coordinator Nicole Berg. “The tens of thousands of individual and collective actions being taken, as well as the innovative leadership of these Ambassadors, will greatly impact our campus beyond what we could achieve with technological and operational changes alone.”
For more information, visit the U-M Planet Blue website at http://www.sustainability.umich.edu/pba/planet-blue-ambassadors.