Reflecting the growing interest in sustainability on campus, students gathered at the Fall Sustainability Forum, where speakers reflected on the impressive progress that has been made, helping to make USC a more eco-friendly campus.
The two-hour forum, sponsored by the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA), covered a wide range of topics, including energy, waste, and emission reduction, greener transportation, and Zero Waste programs for football game days. ESA co-directors Nathaniel Hyman and Claire Mauss were joined by representatives from USC Transportation, Facility Management Services and Auxiliary Services.
The room was crowded, reflecting the recent uptick in student’s interest in the environment. Just last month, the climate strike on campus had over 220 attendees, compared to the 30 who attended the previous strike.
USC’s 2020 sustainability report outlines some of the university’s sustainability goals, including a 20 percent reduction in energy use by 2020. At the forum, Hyman and Mauss revealed that USC is currently on track to achieve this goal, having already achieved a 10 percent energy reduction. The report also outlined a plan to reduce water use by 25 percent. At this time, it does not seem as though this goal will be achieved, as water use has only reduced by 6 percent so far.
On another sustainability topic, students were told of the recent installation of “Energy and Water Dashboards” across campus that allows students to keep track of campus-wide energy consumption. These dashboards show statistics on electricity, water, and natural gas use on campus. Students can see statistics for daily, weekly, and monthly use, and, hopefully, this will motivate them to strive toward sustainability.
A spokesperson from USC’s Auxiliary Services told attendees about the university’s efforts to reduce waste on campus. The office is also working with housing and hospitality to improve sustainability. This includes placing more compost and recycling bins in housing lobbies and minimizing waste in dining halls. Currently, the dining halls produce 1,100 pounds of waste on a daily basis. USG representatives Isabella Caltabiano and Laura Pearson said they are also continuing this initiative in sorority houses like Theta, Gamma Phi, and Tri Delta, who will begin to use compost bins.
USC Facility Management Services (FMS) grounds committee manager Eric Davis spoke about FMS’s work to improve the outdoor environment on campus. Beginning in 2010, USC has been switching its gas-powered leaf blowers to battery-powered leaf blowers, which has eliminated 774 tons of pollutants over the years. While gas-powered leaf blowers are already illegal in the city of Los Angeles, USC hopes to become the first green-zone campus in the nation, in part by using solely battery-operated leaf blowers.
USC Transportation representatives also spoke about the efforts they are making towards creating an environmentally friendly campus, such as working towards having electric USC shuttles and electric cars for Campus Cruisers, a program that offers students free rides within a 2-mile radius of campus during late-night hours.
Game days are also being adapted to promote sustainability. Zero Waste Programs have been implemented for this season’s tailgates but will be strengthened in upcoming seasons. According to Elias Platte-Bermeo, a sustainability program assistant, tailgates produce 7-15 tons of landfill waste each gameday, including greenhouse gases and soil and water contamination. The goal is to reduce this waste by 1-3 tons at future tailgates. At a recent Marshall tailgate, the Zero Waste Program was implemented and resulted in a 98% reduction in waste. The goal is to reduce waste by 1-3 tons at the next tailgate.
There will be another forum in the spring to provide updates on the progress that has been made over the course of this year. Before that time, ESA will continue to hold weekly meetings on Tuesday evenings from 8-9 p.m. in TCC 450 for students who want to get involved.