For Michigan’s institutes of higher learning, energy costs can represent the second highest area for expenses. It takes a lot to power all of those buildings, campuses and events! Colleges and universities are under increasing pressure to keep tuition costs low while supporting growth in research, new technologies, course offerings, and attracting faculty and student talent. Cutting down on energy use is one way to walk that delicate line, all while preserving the health and beauty of our environment.

From coast to coast, it’s no surprise that Michigan’s schools are rising to the challenge of promoting an eco-friendly future for its communities, including sustainable practices. As students return for the fall semester, here are some of the latest environment-friendly programs being implemented across the state.

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

  • UofM’s Planet Blue Operations Team spearheads the campus-wide energy management program, with buildings’ energy consumption dropping by 1% in 2016 alone. This represents a culmination of small projects across several departments, including the Hospital and Health Centers system, which invested $50,000 in HVAC control optimization to save $1.6 million per year! Michigan’s annual Battle of the Buildings competition honored the Kellogg Eye Center for its adjustment of exhaust fans, netting an energy-use reduction of 5.3%. The City of Ann Arbor’s Solar Club is also pushing for homeowners to finance new grids in their neighborhood.

Grand Valley State University (Allendale)

  • The home of the Lakers has an entire office devoted to sustainability practices, with programming and projects running year-round. Its 17-acre Pierce Street solar garden, financed by the school, is the largest in the state. Many green projects are tied directly into course curricula, like the Sustainable Agriculture Project that is a living and breathing laboratory for growing practices, and provides food to the local community. Check out other sustainable projects on GVSU’s interactive map.

Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo)

  • The Broncos are taking a bit of a different approach to energy efficiency. It is the only school in the state to divert large quantities of pre-consumer food waste to local farmers, to use as livestock feed. Additionally, Western has the most extensive electric vehicle infrastructure in the country, allowing for more than 20 cars to be charged at any given time. Many wins have been student-led, as WMU was the first state school to implement a student sustainability fee, in addition to the $75,000 annual Student Sustainability Grant, supporting projects that benefit all students and promote a “green” campus culture.

Other schools like Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Northern Michigan University all boast their own thriving energy-savings and sustainability programs led by students and staff.

Want more? Check out how DTE Energy spent summer break setting up new solar projects around Michigan