The Michigan Sustainability Conference in November offered attendees a chance to share ideas about social and environmental sustainability and see how those ideas are put into action on a major college campus.
Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Diesel Emission Reduction Act and in partnership with Michigan Green Communities, the conference drew more than 300 business and community leaders, making this the largest MISCON to date. The day and a half program Nov. 20-21 in Lansing, with a pre-conference tour on the campus of Michigan State University, offered attendees keynote discussions, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.
The conference kicked off with a tour led by Amy Butler and Laura Young of MSU's Sustainability Office through various interconnected sustainable food systems on campus. A panel discussion focused on the complexities of delivering the logistical needs for housing and dining services. Participants then received a firsthand look at the technologies and approaches MSU is using by taking guided tours through the passive solar Bailey GREENhouse, which produces certified organic produce and functions as a site for numerous student projects.
The tour then stopped at the campus' anaerobic digester, which processes about 17,000 tons of organic waste from MSU farms and dining halls and generates 2.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Last was a stop at the Surplus Store and Recycling Center. It manages MSU's discarded materials as a resource through reuse, recycling, collaboration, and education. Last year, the center diverted more than 50 percent of the 30 million pounds of materials received at the facility.
Back at the conference center, attendees were introduced to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy's new executive roles that focus on environmental justice, climate and energy, and clean water. The discussion helped to frame the conversation about how EGLE is continuing to support sustainability, and that collaboration is the key to all success. EGLE's Director, Liesl Clark, further drove this point home during the morning welcome on Day Two, which offered attendees three breakout tracks focusing on advancing business sustainability, sustainable communities, and alternative fuels and transportation.
Morning keynote Bob Riney of Henry Ford Health Systems discussed the importance of ensuring community health. Riney's focus on the social lens of sustainability prompted many questions as attendees are looking to bolster their organizations' social responsibility strategies. Afternoon keynote speaker Daniel Aronson of Valutus, challenged the audience to think about their organizations' core-values. Aronson remarked that, "If you don't place a metric value on something, you are atomically giving it the only value it can have -- zero." Networking breaks allowed attendees to engage with leaders outside their usual networks, supporting the nexus between business and communities.
Alternative fuel vehicles were highlighted outside the venue, including hydrogen, compressed natural gas, propane, and electric powered vehicles.
Practicing sustainability at the conference, attendees collaborated and communicated through the use of the Whova mobile conference application. This allowed conference organizers to eliminate paper agendas.
EGLE looks forward to continuing its commitment to sustainability and helping to strengthen collaboration in this multifaceted field.