Certification program holds offices to high standards

The Olympics might be over, but at USC the quest for gold continues.

USC’s new Green Offices Certification Program has been evaluating campus offices for their environmental consciousness since the fall, certifying the 10th office Tuesday.

Certified · Dean of Viterbi Yannis Yortsos (left) receives the office’s bronze certification from Matthew Oden (second from right). The Viterbi Dean’s Office is the tenth to be certified. - Sunal Murali | Daily Trojan

Campus offices are assessed and rated based on their commitment to environmentally friendly practices. The program considers factors such as number of recycling bins, use of low-energy computer monitors and use of energy-saving light bulbs. Using a standard set of criteria, the Green Offices Certification Program gives each participating office a certification ranging from bronze to platinum.

Of the 10 offices that have been certified so far, none has achieved better than a silver rating.

“They set goals kind of high, but we can come back and re-evaluate,” said John Baldo, director of university affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government, who has worked closely with sustainability. “They don’t want to just hand out gold to everyone.”

The Office of the Dean at the Viterbi School of Engineering received its certification Tuesday, earning a bronze rating.

Gloria Hayes, a staff member of Viterbi’s Office of the Dean, said the program has shown the office how much they have left to do to be more sustainable.

“The program has done a tremendous amount as far as awareness,” she said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Hayes said the office worked for months to achieve the bronze certification.

In cases where offices are at risk of not being certified at all, the Sustainability Office will work with the office to help it improve before the certification process is completed, according to Shana Rappaport, a graduate student who works as a liaison for USC Sustainability.

Though the program is still young and no office has reached the gold or platinum level, Rappaport and Sustainability Director Matthew Oden both said they have high hopes for the program’s potential.

“We are essentially building the plane as we fly — no university has developed a program like this,” Rappaport said.

Oden said the program could help advance USC’s standing as an environmentally friendly university.

“USC prides itself on all these things that we’re good at — sports, cinema, etc.,” he said. “The school has a remarkable opportunity to become an environmental leader [too].”

The program is effective, Rappaport said, because it requires offices to take a hard look at their practices and make substantial changes.

“We can talk the green talk, but we have to actualize that commitment by incorporating it into our everyday practices,” she said. “Ninety percent of the actions that are encouraged by the program are things that offices are well in control of.”

Besides the 10 certifications that have been given so far, the Sustainability Office is working with about 80 other offices that are trying to complete the program.

USC created the new Sustainability Office and hired Oden to run the university’s program less than a year ago, and he said that certifying offices is just the beginning.

“I want to empower the community to make those changes,” Oden said. “No single office at USC [alone] can do what we’re trying to do; we need everybody to take part and be creative.”

Oden said there are a few environmental initiatives in the works. One aims to record the university’s greenhouse gas emissions; another hopes to install energy dashboards that display various buildings’ amount of consumption on any given day.

“We want to start to pioneer a path forward for what it looks like for universities in the middle of a megacity,” Oden said. “Hopefully we release a wave of behavioral changes.”