New Student Sustainability Training looks to become mandatory

The Office of Sustainability plans to make their module required for incoming students first.

The USC Office of Sustainability is looking to make its Student Sustainability Training mandatory for students.

Created in collaboration with University Communications, the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA) and the Presidential Working Group on Sustainability, the module is available on Trojan Learn.

The 45-minute training is an educational presentation with some videos and interactives. Some topics covered are waste diversion, water conservation, energy use, etc. It provides ways students can get involved, like learning to sort waste with the multi-stream waste bins all over campus and much more. It also outlines a few of the university’s sustainability plans, such as achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and 20% water reduction.

Currently, the module is optional, but the Office of Sustainability plans to make its sustainability training required for incoming students and eventually mandatory for all students to take.

“The long-term goal is to have it be part of that line-up of training that students are required to take like the Title IX,” said Lilian Ledesma, sustainability engagement specialist.

The module had what was described by Ledesma as a “soft launch” earlier this year in April.

Brad Haydel, associate director of the Office of Sustainability, spoke briefly about the module at the How to be a Sustainable Trojan event in April. In an interview with ATVN, Haydel encouraged students to take the sustainability training, saying, “It covers the background of sustainability, what USC is doing, how students can get involved and the best way that they can make change.”

Still, the “soft launch” resulted in many students not knowing about the new module.

“I have not heard about [the training] at all,” said recent alum Shreya Agrawal, formerly Annenberg Media Earth Desk editor.

To increase awareness, the Office of Sustainability plans to make a big marketing push this upcoming school year, encouraging faculty, staff and students to take the training.

Beyond social media and their newsletter, “we’re really hoping to work with residential ED to encourage their students to take it,” Ledesma said.

Agrawal, who founded the Earth Desk last year, said the training and making it mandatory is a great idea.

“I’m actually really proud of USC for doing it because President Folt always talks about how important sustainability and making these initiatives are to her,” Agrawal said. “I’m glad that the Office of Sustainability is finally stepping up to participate in wide student involvement instead of just people who are genuinely interested in doing things by themselves.”

Folt has prioritized sustainability on campus during her time at USC. At her inauguration in 2019, Folt held a university-wide zero-waste luncheon and joined students in a climate strike organized by ESA.

In her 2023 State of the University Address, Folt spoke about sustainability milestones the university has accomplished. From reducing carbon footprint, eliminating single-use plastic beverage bottles, diverting half of waste from landfills and reducing water use.

In addition, Folt said in her address the university is “purchasing renewable electricity from LADWP that is 45% less carbon-intensive.”

There is no timeframe for when the Student Sustainability Training will become mandatory for all students.