Systems Planning

Sustainable Ann Arbor Forums

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The City of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor District Library hosted the seventh annual Sustainable Ann Arbor series in January-April 2018. A think tank of local stakeholders, including community organizations, local government staff, and businesses joined members of the public to discuss local sustainability efforts and challenges in our community.  The Forums were held at the Ann Arbor District Main Library in downtown Ann Arbor. Join us in winter/spring 2019 for our next set of Forums!


Electric Vehicles - About 70 attendees heard from a panel of electric vehicle experts as they talked about EVs in Ann Arbor. Charles Griffith, Director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Ecology Center, set the stage and shared some facts about EVs in Ann Arbor. Bruce Westlake from the Michigan Electric Auto Association talked about what motivates drivers to go EV. Andrew Renz, Principal Marketing Specialist for DTE shared about their emerging focus on supporting EV adoption in our region. Alex Keros, Manager, Vehicle & Advanced Technology Policy for General Motors talked about their innovative car-sharing and ride-hailing efforts both locally and from across the United States. Lastly, Terry Richards, Head of Sustainability Projects for Mahindra GenZe, spoke about their electric motorbikes and motor scooters.

Before the Forum, EV owners from the Michigan Electric Auto Association opened their car doors to approximately 30 members of the public. The "EV Showcase" event was held on Library Lane from 5-7pm. The event was free.

Visit AADL's website to watch a complete recording of the forum

​Measuring and Tracking Sustainability - At this Forum, approximately 55 attendees listened in as experts from Ann Arbor city government and U of M examined current methods to measure and track the success of sustainability programs. John Mirsky, Executive Policy Advisor for Sustainability for the Ann Arbor City Administrator, discussed the City's latest efforts to upgrade and more effectively employ sustainability metrics. Matt Naud, Environmental Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor, reported on the City's new four-star rating with the STAR Communities program. Andrew Berki, Director of the U of M Office of Campus Sustainability, spoke about the University's efforts to meet their aggressive sustainability goals. 

​Visit AADL's website to watch a complete rec​ording of the forum​

Civic Life in Ann Arbor - An engaged audience of 52 attendees took part during this Forum as panelists examined the health of our civic life in the Ann Arbor region. Mary Morgan, Founder of CivCity, moderated a panel about what it means to be an engaged citizen in a sustainable community, the importance of effecting change by focusing on the local level, and visioning what civic life can mean in the age of social media. Neel Hajra, President and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, spoke about the importance of community philanthropy in a thriving city. Ashley Blake, Community Building Team Lead at Avalon Housing, spoke about how to engage residents who have not traditionally had access to the democratic process. Linh Song, Vice President of the Ann Arbor District Library Board spoke about how the Library is meeting the needs of the community. Lastly, Patrick Campion, Program Director for WEMU, spoke about the important roles an independent media plays in a healthy democracy.

​Visit AADL's website to watch a com​​plete recording of the forum​

Ann Arbor Water 101 - A small but mighty crowd took part in a fun evening learning about the lifecycle of water in Ann Arbor. They watched a video about extreme storms in Ann Arbor, heard presentations from experts in the field, and participated in a Jeopardy-style water trivia game. 

  • Omar Gates, Climatologist from the University of Michigan
  • Jennifer Lawson, Water Quality Manager for the City of Ann Arbor   
  • Brian Steiglitz, Water Treatment Plant Manager for the City of Ann Arbor    
  • Earl Kenzie, Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager for the City of Ann Arbor​
Visit AADL's website to watch a complete recording of the forum


Grow Your Own -  The fourth and final Sustainable Ann Arbor forum focused on the topic of growing and preserving your own food. The moderator, Councilmember Jason Frenzel, kept the program lively and on track. Master Gardener Monica Milla shared how to plan your vegetable garden; her main points were that anyone can be a gardener and that you should grow what you like to eat. Sustainable landscaper Drew Lathin, talked about how working with nature by planting native plants can help one’s backyard become not only more beautiful but also a biologically-important piece of land. Biodynamic Beekeeper Caitlin Dickinson spoke about how she’s learned to become a beekeeper and how you can as well. And lastly, Emily Springfield shared tips and tricks about canning, dehydrating, freezing, and other food storage arts. 

  • Monica Milla, Master Gardener and Gardening Instructor for Washtenaw Community College
  • Drew Lathin, General Manager of Creating Sustainable Landscapes, LLC
  • Caitlin Dickinson, Biodynamic Beekeeper
  • Emily Springfield, Founder of Preserving Traditions

​Visit AADL's website to watch a complete re​cording of the forum

Sustainable Kids - Our first kids-centered Forum included a make and take home craft, interactive environmental education presentations, and storytelling from a professional story teller. Over 75 children and adults attended March’s Sustainability Forum on “Sustainable Kids”. The evening opened with 15 of Jeannine Palm’s kids acting out the amazing story of how they’ve built wet meadows near their school. MacKenzie Maxwell of the Leslie Science Center then ran a module about frogs, including a live demo with a toad. And the end of the evening was topped off with Laura Raynor, a professional storyteller with the Ann Arbor District Library, who acted out a book for the kids, and then led the kids in making crafts at three craft tables. 

  • Jeannine Palms, Teacher/Director of Blossom Home Preschool & Adventures
  • MacKenzie Maxwell, School and Scout Program Manager for the Leslie Science Center
  • Katy Adams, Education Director for the Ecology Center
  • Laura Raynor, Youth Librarian for the AADL

(No video recorded as per AADL's policy of not filming minors without parental consent.)

Driverless Vehicles Coming Down the Pike -  We heard from state and national experts about the coming "driverless" vehicle revolution and what it will mean for the Ann Arbor region. Five high-powered presenters spoke about the upcoming “driverless car” revolution. The Director of the MI DOT, Kirk Steudle, spoke about the impact of four recent bills to pass the state legislature, all designed to ease unneeded regulatory burdens on the researchers and car manufacturers who want to test and deploy connected and automated vehicle technology on MI roads. Mr. Steudle is a leading DPT Director nationally. The Moderator of the evening, Laurel Champion (COO) and the CEO of the American Center for Mobility, John Maddox, both spoke about the history of the Willow Run site and how ACM plans to reimagine the site as a world-class automated and connected vehicle-testing center. Dr. Huang Peng, Director of the UM’s Mobility Transformation Center, gave a great overview of the M-City testing site and the other MTC vehicle testing projects using the streets of Ann Arbor as a living laboratory. Frank Sgambati of Robert Bosch, LLC, gave an industry perspective of what automated and connected technology is in the development pipeline now and will be on the streets soon. Perhaps the biggest take-away of the evening, though, was that the primary reason people are working on these projects is to save a great number of the 35,000 people who die on our country’s streets and highway each year.

  • Dr. Huei Peng, Director of U-M Mobility Transformation Center
  • Kirk Steudle, Director of MI Department of Transportation
  • John Maddox or Laurel Champion, American Center for Mobility
  • Frank Sgambati, Director of Marketing and Product Innovation, North America at Robert Bosch LLC

Visit AADL's website to watch a complete recordin​​g of the forum

Green your Home DIY - On January 12th, the City kicked off its sixth year of Sustainability Forums at the downtown library. Councilmember Chip Smith recommended the topic of “Green Your Home DIY” and served as the evening’s moderator. Eighty-one attendees were given do-it-yourself (and hire-a-pro) tips on installing solar as part of the City’s group buy project; how to build a rain garden; how to weatherize their homes; and how to get started growing their own food. Presenters included: David Levine, CEO of Geostellar; Aaron Kraft, Housing Programs Supervisor for Washtenaw County; Roger Moon, Master Rain Gardener, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office; and Amanda Edmonds, Ypsilanti Mayor & Founder and Executive Director of Growing Hope.

  • David Levine, Founder/CEO of Geostellar
  • Aaron Kraft, Housing Programs Supervisor for Washtenaw County
  • Roger Moon, Master Rain Gardener, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner's Office)
  • Amanda Edmonds, Ypsilanti Mayor and Founder/Executive Director of Growing Hope

​​Visit AADL's website to watch a comp​le​te record​ing o​​f the forum​


Climate and Energy, included updates on Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan, an overview of local climate impacts, and sustainable programs underway at the University of Michigan. 

  • Mike Garfield, Executive Director, Ecology Center
  • Anya Dale, Sustainability Rep, University of Michigan
  • Sean Reed, Executive Director, Clean Energy Coalition
  • Wayne Appleyard, Chair, Ann Arbor Energy Commission
  • Nathan Geisler, Energy Programs Analyst, City of Ann Arbor

​​Visit AADL's website to read a description of the forum​

Resource Management, included discussions about improving Ann Arbor's waste diversion rate and community wide efforts to reduce different waste streams.

  • Roger Bowser, Managing Partner, Zingerman's
  • Eileen Spring, President and CEO, Food Gatherers
  • Noelle Bowman, Solid Waste Specialist, Washtenaw County
  • Tracy Artley, Sustainability Programs Coordinator, U-M Plant Building & Grounds Services
  • Matt Naud, Environmental Coordinator, City of Ann Arbor

​​Visit AADL's website to read a description of the forum​

Land Use and Access, included discussions about regional transit, sustainability planning in transportation systems, and Ann Arbor's latest bicycle and pedestrian projects.
  • Matt Carpenter, CEO of TheRide
  • Michael Ford, CEO of the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority 
  • Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor Transportation Program Manager
  • Sean Reed, Executive Director of Clean Energy Coalition (ArborBike)
  • Chris Taylor​, Mayor of Ann Arbor, Moderator​  ​

Looking to the Future: Ann Arbor in 2025, included conversations about local challenges and solutions on Ann Arbor's path to a more sustainable future. ​
  • Josie Parker, Director of the Ann Arbor Library 
  • Sue Zielinski, from UMTRI/SMART 
  • Xuan Liu, Manager of Research, SEMCOG
  • Susan Pollay, Executive Director, Ann Arbor​ Downtown Development Authority
  • Teresa Gillotti, Washtenaw County Department of Community and Economic Development
Visit AADL's website to read a description of the forum​


Sustainable Buildings, including a discussion of how to increase efficiency of both new and existing building and projects underway in the community

Visit AADL's website to watch a complete recording of the forum

Economic Vitality, including current economic development projects, community investment, and business development

Visit AADL's website to watch a complete recording of the forum

Sustainable Systems, including an overview of city wet weather projects and community-led solutions to increased precipitation

Visit AADL's website to watch a complete recording of the forum

Responsible Resou​rce Use, including an overview of waste, compost, and recycling across the community

Due to a tornado warning at this forum, speakers were unable to give their presentations in full. Below are links to the presentations for each of the speakers. 


Equity in Planning

Visit AADL's website to watch the complete recording of the forum

Or view individual presentations from the Equity in Planning forum


Healthy Ecosystems​

Visit AADL's website to watch the complete recording of the forum

Or view individual presentations from the Healthy Ecosystems forum


Climate and Adaptation

Visit AADL's​ website to read a transcript of the forum

Or view individual presentations from the Climate and Adaptation forum

Local Food

Visit AADL's website to watch the complete recording of the forum


Sustainable Systems

Visit AADL's website to watch the Sustainable Systems Forum

Powerpoint Presentations (pdf - 9MB)

How to Get Involved Handout (PDF​​)

Economic Vitality​

Powerpoint Presentations (6 MB PDF)

Visit AADL's website to watch the Economic Vitality Forum

Diverse Housing

View individual presentations

Powerpoint Presentations (pdf - 9MB)

Visit AADL's website to read a transcript of the Diverse Housing Forum

Transportation Options

View individual presentations

Powerpoint Presentations (pdf -12MB)

Visit AADL's website to read a transcript of the Transportation Options Forum


Resource Management​

View individual presentations

Download a pdf of the resource management presentations here

Visit the AADL's website to read a transcript of the Resource Management Forum​

Land Use and Access

View individual presentations

Download a pdf of the land use and access presentations here

Visit the AADL's website to watch the Land Use and Access Forum

Climate and Energy

View individual presentations

Download a pdf of the climate and energy presentations here!

Visit the AADL's website to read a transcript of the Climate and Energy Forum 


View individual presentations​  

Download a pdf of the community presentations here

Visit the AADL's website to read a transcript of the Community Forum

​Emily Drennen
Sustainability Associate​
734.794.6430 x43726