BY ADRIANNA BOJRAB
Published November 8, 2012
Nestled in the heart of a culturally rich and active local community, the University of Michigan’s goals seem to mirror the objectives of local Ann Arbor. The city is a buzzing hub of innovation — start-up entrepreneurial enterprises, cutting edge technology and research firms seem to make up the nucleus of Ann Arbor economy. Because such endeavors prove costly, efficiency seems to be a priority amongst local civilians, a primacy that’s reflected in their business approaches. Efficiency can be achieved on a variety levels: capital allocation, minimal time or energy expenditure and strategic business structures that minimize costs and boost profits. Such efficiency standards can be met with numerous approaches. However, Ann Arbor companies seem to equate efficiency with “green” sustainability and consider local options and careful environmental practices to reach the bar.
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While residing in Ann Arbor for four years, I noticed incentives for reducing waste around the city. Many food businesses receive base ingredients from local farmers and donate leftovers to the homeless population. Local farmers markets are highly publicized and well frequented by students and locals alike. Clothing and product drives reallocate excess, and a noticeable shift toward biodegradable materials for disposable products has become widespread in University and local businesses. A new wave of businesses promoting increased accessibility to public transportation has also emerged. By means of more expansive bus routes and initiatives to provide larger-capacity cabs, Ann Arbor moves more people and burns less fuel. Within the community, there’s a consistent biking population and, more recently, an emerging skateboard culture. Governmental regulations have rejected proposals for increasing parking accessibility, and this has been proven to deter individuals from driving, which is a positive for fuel conservation.
Additionally, the physical layout of Ann Arbor makes walking or alternative transportation an easy, viable and reasonable option, along with the construction of new residence halls, co-ops and apartment buildings on Central Campus — bringing people closer in proximity to their destinations. The “dual” suburban life in Ann Arbor provides the perfect marketplace for local and student businesses to test new ideas and receive rapid feedback from the student community, which strives for “efficiency” in all sectors of life, as academia proves rather grueling and time-consuming. Essentially, Ann Arbor makes it easy to be environmentally conscious by providing the means to promote desired actions.
The “green” movement swept through Ann Arbor like a storm, and the Ross School of Business proved to be Ann Arbor’s jewel. An entirely “green” building, constructed by using preexisting recycled materials, it boasted goals of modernity while achieving energy and water efficiency through design innovation. Through carefully crafted and creative design practices, the functioning building has increased profitability, saved funds and resources and reduced the negative environmental impacts of development on the surrounding community. Modern and energy-efficient: It’s possible.
Additionally, Ann Arbor has employed solar-powered parking meters throughout the city and receptacles for recycling next to virtually every waste repository. Participating in this movement becomes inevitable and, as a result, students and locals develop sustainable habits.
My fascination with urban living and sustainability was redefined when I moved north of downtown Chicago. Generally speaking, subways and buses are the predominate mode of transportation for many city dwellers. As a graduate student, it’s an option to purchase an unlimited public transportation card for six months of accessibility. Purchasing a pass was a necessity for me because my proximity from school wasn’t conducive for walking. My commute on the subway has opened my eyes to the amount of fuel, finances, energy and time allotment that is being saved per person. Calculate $2.50 per one-way ticket, the price of a car, gas, parking and time in the context of the city and your result is astounding. Chicago utilizes public transportation in a way unlike most other big cities, by utilizing both above ground and underground subway transport. By doubling the expansive public transportation network, Chicago transports more people and employs more individuals to service and maintain the tracks and trains. Read: Public transportation is quick, efficient, expansive, and arguably entertaining.
Illinois also provides a number of incentives for renewable efforts. These opportunities are available for commercial, industrial, residential, educational and institutional interests, and help to further the employment and adoption of new technology and environmentally beneficial practices.