Sustainability issues manifest differently in communities all over the world. Cities face challenges and opportunities related to evolving modes of mobility, access to renewable energy sources, changing land use, and the health and well-being of residents, among other issues. University of Michigan experts at centers like the Urban Collaboratory and Urban Energy Justice Lab are examining the interplay between cities, communities, and broader global sustainability, and sharing their insights with urban planners, policymakers, businesses, and community organizations.
U-M Energy Equity Project to develop first standardized tool for driving equity in clean energy industry
Despite widespread calls for a just transition to cleaner, more resilient energy systems, there isn’t a standardized measurement framework for evaluating the equity of clean energy programs. As a result, utility administrators, regulators, and energy advocates have been judging equity on an ad hoc basis. The Urban Energy Justice Lab at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability announced a new program aimed at addressing this gap.
New Catalyst Grants Focus on environment, equity
Three projects have been selected to receive funding through the Graham Sustainability Institute’s catalyst grants, which provide support for small-scale, collaborative, interdisciplinary sustainability research. The projects seek to, respectively, improve urban stream quality in Washtenaw County and beyond, convert alleys in Detroit into net-zero community spaces, and protect nail salon workers from toxic exposure.
Larsen: Elevating environmental problems through an interdisciplinary lens
Larissa Larsen, associate professor of urban and regional planning and director of the urban and regional planning doctoral program at Taubman College, faced a skeptical audience when she started sounding the alarm on climate change and particularly the issue of extreme heat in 2000. In 2006, she co-authored an article that was the first to document that lower-income and communities of color were disproportionately impacted by the urban heat island.
The Benefits of Spontaneous Vegetation
Two U-M experts are investigating “informal green spaces” across Detroit. Such spaces, sometimes referred to pejoratively as ‘vacant lots,’ have emerged across the city in part because of cuts to public services. These areas now serve as homes for spontaneous vegetation, better known as weeds, which tend to thrive in such urban, resource-depleted environments.
‘Peecycling’ payoff: Urine diversion shows multiple environmental benefits when used at city scale
Diverting urine away from municipal wastewater treatment plants and recycling the nutrient-rich liquid to make crop fertilizer would result in multiple environmental benefits when used at city scale, according to a new UM-led study. Researchers found that urine diversion and recycling led to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, freshwater consumption and the potential to fuel algal blooms in lakes and other water bodies.
U-M, community partners tackle energy insecurity in three Detroit neighborhoods
Some Detroiters spend up to 30% of their monthly income on home energy bills, a sky-high rate that places the city among the Top 10 nationally in a category that researchers call household energy burden. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation, adding financial challenges that make it increasingly difficult for many low- and moderate-income residents to pay their utility bills.
This urban farm is on path to sustainability
Anya Sirota, an associate professor of architecture at the U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, has been working more than four years to help make the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm self-sufficient and sustainable.
Innovative gardens help manage stormwater while beautifying Detroit neighborhoods
On the former sites of vacant Detroit homes, U-M researchers and their partners have built innovative gardens that help manage stormwater, while removing neighborhood blight. The four new “bioretention gardens” are designed to capture and hold stormwater in a subsurface layer of gravel, while beautifying the Cody Rouge area on Detroit’s west side.