President Folt releases sustainability master plan

The plan is set to guide the university’s environmental programs through 2028.

On Feb. 25, USC President Carol L. Folt announced a sustainability master plan that is scheduled for completion by the end of 2020.

The plan includes a pledge to eliminate single-use plastics, dramatic reductions of greenhouse gases, an expansion of waste diversion and recycling programs and the installation of more charging stations for electric vehicles in USC parking garages.

Sustainability on campus has been one of Folt’s top priorities since day one. Hours after her official inauguration, she attended a student-led climate strike at Tommy Trojan. A week prior, she revitalized the Public Transit Subsidy Program.

In addition to the master plan, the Galen Center installed solar panels on Feb. 22 and Feb. 29. This installment is the biggest solar energy project at the university to date and is estimated to eventually generate up to 15% of the Galen Center’s energy production in the future, according to a press release.

“Student organizations have been proposing solar panels on Galen center since 2014 and they've been told that this will never happen,” said Nathaniel Hyman, co-executive director of the Environmental Student Assembly. “Carol Folt has really redefined what is possible at this university in regards to sustainability.”

Ella Dux, the associate director of USC’s Office of Sustainability, called Folt’s influence upon the campus atmosphere “absolutely transformational.” Her office and the Sustainability Steering Committee are the two biggest organizations on campus collaborating to make Folt’s vision a reality. The two teams are currently in the process of drafting a plan for the next few years.

Dux believes Folt’s efforts have brought sustainability to the forefront of most conversations. Both Dux’s office and the Sustainability Steering Committee are working to propose solutions targeting transportation and energy waste.

“Building retro commissioning, [installing] LED light installs, more renewable energy on rooftops, converting some amount of fleet [vehicles] to either EV or hybrids, possibly also looking at campus buses for EVs [and] carbon offsets potentially for air miles traveled for faculty and staff,” Dux said.

Installing solar panels was only the first step. The real challenge will come with the incorporation of sustainability into every aspect of campus life. Dux is hoping that all future games and events will be zero waste and that sustainable practices will soon be a part of every program.

“We have to push an understanding and a hunger and an appetite for sustainable operations into every single group.”

The university’s sustainability goals in the master plan are set to guide USC’s environmental programs through 2028. The plan is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.