Greening Your Consumption

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Office of Sustainability & Innovations (OSI)
301 E. Huron St.
Ann Arbor 
[email protected]
OSI Manager 

Dr. Missy Stults
[email protected] 

Staff Directory​​​

​​​​​​​​​Garbage, ​refuse, trash, waste... these are all different names for the stuff we may no longer want or use. There are plenty of options for what to do with our waste (read on), but one of the most important ways to become sustainable involves evolving our consumption patterns.  

Changing Consumption Patterns

​​​​​​​​​T​his is​ what Strategy 5 o​​​​​​f the A2ZERO Carbon Neutrality Plan​addresses: changing the way we use,​ reuse, and dispose of materials. At its core, this is about moving our community towards a circul​ar economy.​

While there are options to recycle and compost in Ann Arbor (in addition to your landfill waste bin), there is far more to the picture in considering our use of “things”.  To learn more, check out this video from The Story of Stuff Project about the system of waste and how it’s ​generated.The Seven Rs.jpgThere are many stages in a product's life cycle, and each one affects the environment. B​efore making a purchase, the above image can help you consider the full impact of the product's material, manufacturing method, and usage.

The Circular Economy

The circular economy is an economic system that generates value by reusing, repairing, sharing, lending, and promoting all activities that give goods and resources a new life or extend the useful life of an item. A linear economy makes waste. Items are produced, sold, used, and thrown away. Building a circular economy means rediscovering a culture of reclaiming products and materials, following the model of many cultures - notably indigenous ones - that prize conservation and creative reuse of material resources. ​Learn more on our Circular Economy page​.

Composting and Recycling

Over 50% of Ann Arbor waste is diverted from ​landfills for recycling or composting.  40% of your household waste could be composted (we know because we sorted through 100 carts).  Ann Arbor residents are awe​some recyclers but we can always do more.

Ann Arbor adopted the Waste Less: Solid Waste Resource Plan in October 2013 that identifies ways for the community to move towards a goal of zero waste. The plan sets to goals to help divert materials from the landfill:

  • Increase single family diversion rates from 50% to 60% by 2017 
  • Increase total citywide diversion rates from 31% to 40% by 2017
​Reaching these goals​ requires a lot of help for residents and businesses in the community.​​​

​​Ann Arbor Reduce, Reuse, Return (A2R3) Returnable Container Program

​OSI has partnered with several local businesses on the A2R3 Returnable Container Program. ​​This program aims to reduce the amount of waste produced by restaurants and other businesses in our community by providing patrons with reusable, returnable​ take-out containers. To participate, simply visit the A2R3 website​ to register and to check out a container each time you visit a participating business! After enjoying your meal, you can return the clean container to any of the participating businesses.​ To sign up, see participating businesses, and learn more, visit the A2R3 website​ or email us at [email protected]. ​​​

Image credit: Sean Carter Photography - @​​scarterphotog on Instagram - @SeanCarterPhoto on Facebook 

What C​​​an Y​​​ou Do?

Green Purchasing​​​​ Ch​ecklist

​If you do need to purchase an item, consider the following: 

  • Is it necessary?
  • ​Does it contain 30% or greater post-consumer recycled content (paper)?
  • Is it made of biobased content?
  • Is it environmentall​y preferable, energy efficient, and/or water efficient?
  • Does it have minimal life cycle costs?
  • Does it have minimal risk of toxic/hazardous chemicals?
  • Is it durable or does it have a long product life?
  • Can you buy a slightly used version as opposed to a new one? ​

Informa​tional Resources