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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities
A worker mowing th elawn between some dorm rooms, green grass


Michigan State University is known for its beautiful campus. The Landscape Services department balances the university’s operational and aesthetic missions while using environmentally-friendly practices in grounds care and upkeep.

Biofuel from waste

Landscape waste such as mulch is being used as a source of biofuel in the T.B. Simon Power Plant. It is combined with coal to reduce the amount of total coal used. In addition to being a cleaner source of fuel, the woody material is a renewable resource from campus landscape. As much as 8,000 to 9,000 tons of wood chips are used as biofuel annually. Learn more about how MSU generates power.

Stormwater management

Several landscaping solutions are used to manage stormwater runoff to naturally cleanse the water and to reduce the risk of flooding.

Trees: a valuable asset

Trees are one of the most valuable natural energy-savers on campus. Shading reduces cooling costs. They act as windbreaks, which reduces heating costs. Trees also reduce heat islands that occur over hard surfaces in urban environments.  
Since trees are such a valuable resource, MSU takes special means to protect trees in construction areas and tailgate zones. In some instances, trees have been relocated to accommodate for a new building while preserving the tree. A technique called air spading allows the entire root system to be exposed without damage, the correct planting depth and root flare to be identified and the tree to continue to flourish after transplant.

Preventing “cowpaths,” protecting trees

Certain areas of the MSU campus are marked with infamous “cowpaths” of pedestrians that choose to take a shorter walk across green space than stick to installed sidewalks. Sidewalk placement follows these natural walking trails when possible. However, in areas with extensive tree root systems that weave underground, concrete cannot be used or the roots would be suffocated. As an alternate solution, rubber sidewalk was installed. The implementation was successful.

Academic mission

In the greenhouse near Bailey Hall, chefs that work for Residential and Hospitality Services grow herbs that are then used directly in campus cooking, reducing the costs and fuel use of transportation and packaging. Students intern within the greenhouse and work with the chef as part of their academic programs.