U-M survey finds strong interest among Michigan communities in sustainability and energy collaborations

September 30, 2020

Few local governments in Michigan report collaborating with another community on energy and sustainability issues, but nearly half expressed interest in teaming up with others to pursue opportunities, according to survey results released today by the the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 

Interest in collaboration varies by topic. Three-quarters of local jurisdictions report current collaboration (38 percent) or an interest in collaboration (36 percent) on recycling. On other topics, relatively few local governments statewide currently report collaborations on non-motorized or public transportation (17 percent), green purchasing programs (7 percent), or shared staffing for energy issues (3 percent). However, local government officials express considerable interest in pursuing these opportunities, particularly for green purchasing programs (44 percent). 

The survey also found that collaborations are more common in larger jurisdictions, and sheds light on potential intergovernmental collaborations elsewhere. 

Natalie Fitzpatrick, CLOSUP Research Area Specialist, notes “Collaboration on energy and sustainability issues is not just for big cities and counties. Even in Michigan’s smallest townships and villages, 34 percent currently report they collaborate on recycling, and only 18 percent have no interest in doing so."

The Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES),  which was a special wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey conducted in fall 2019, is sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). Its findings allow for a better understanding of local officials’ perceptions of the costs, benefits and likelihood of engaging in sustainability activities.

Dr. Debra Horner, CLOSUP Project Manager, said “We’re fortunate that, because more than 70 percent of Michigan local governments statewide participate in our surveys, we’re able to map out opportunities for collaboration all the way down to the county level.”

“Hearing from local officials on the programs they participate in and collaborate on is valuable information from an energy perspective,” said Robert Jackson, assistant director of EGLE’s Materials Management Division. “The survey results will help us to identify areas in which we may foster partnerships with municipal officials to identify opportunities for saving energy and money.”

“This report shows that local governments have significant interest in working together on sustainability issues,” said Dr. Sarah Mills, senior project manager of the U-M Graham Sustainability Institute and CLOSUP. “Through U-M’s ongoing collaboration with EGLE, we look forward to helping make some of those connections between local governments.”

The survey had a nearly 73 percent response rate. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.39 percent.

Launched in the wake of the Great Recession in 2009 by CLOSUP, the MPPS is conducted in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Townships Association. It is one of several ways the Ford School, now ranked as the #5 public policy program for environmental policy, provides cross-disciplinary expertise at multiple levels of governance.

The entire report can be viewed here