Some efforts to make the University of Southern California a greener campus are being put on hold in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but students have not forgotten the importance of these plans.
In February, USC Auxiliary Services installed 40 compost bins in eight of the residential colleges at USC to reduce food waste on campus and kickstart the university’s 2020 sustainability plan.
According to Isabella Caltabiano, the director of Sustainability Affairs Undergraduate Student Government, these compost bins are still permanent structures in USC Housing.
“With fewer students in residential colleges, there is less waste being produced and that compost isn’t being collected or is being collected less often when waste is placed inside a bin,” said Caltabiano.
Caltabiano also said the expansion of composting bins in other residential colleges is currently being slowed down due to the limited access of campus, but that the university is still focused on its green initiative.
“I can confidently say that Auxiliary Services, USC Housing, and the Office of Sustainability are still working online and ensuring that we move forward on such projects in the best way possible,” said Caltabiano. “I would hope that we can continue to move forward for the next semester so long as everyone remains safe and healthy.”
Michael Bailey, USC sophomore majoring in law, history, and culture, said that “food waste is so much worse for the environment than actually producing the food. So I was like ‘I don’t want to just throw this away and contribute to letting it rot in a landfill… I compost for the environment.’”
Bailey said he is a passionate environmentalist and is determined to maintain his sustainable lifestyle despite the coronavirus pandemic. He is concerned about the panic surrounding COVID-19 and the subsequent hoarding of food.
“People are freaking out, and I feel like the best thing is just to remain calm about it,” Bailey said. “Just don’t buy all this produce that you can’t eat … just because you can buy five pounds of something doesn’t mean you should.”
He said the way people are buying in excess is wasteful, as they most likely won’t be able to eat that amount. “Just buy what you would normally buy instead of hoarding and trying to eat more than you do and even buying foods you don’t like that much,” he added.
Nathaniel Hyman, a junior public policy and law major and the co-director of USC Environmental Student Assembly, said the organization’s programming for the year is discontinued due to the pandemic, but ESA will continue to have their usual Tuesday night meetings via Zoom.
Hyman believes some of the measures ESA has instituted for the next year are still in place, including implementing meatless Mondays in campus dining halls, which is expected to start next fall. However, he said that the Divest SC campaign, which encouraged USC to divest in fossil fuels, has been suspended.
“There’s nothing that the university divestment could do to the fossil fuel industry that the coronavirus hasn’t already done to the fossil fuel industry,” said Hyman.
Hyman believes it is necessary to dispose of items that may be infected during this pandemic, including food delivery packages, hospital masks and gloves, to keep people healthy and safe.
“I don’t think that a five-month period using single-use plastics is going to result in nearly as much suffering as would result from not doing that,” he said. “We should be doing everything we can to protect people and to me, that’s what the environmental movement is all about.”
ESA will be holding its first meeting since the COVID-19 outbreak and the quarantine began.