USG hopes to boost sustainability efforts
A new resolution from the Undergraduate Student Government aims to increase the size of USC’s Sustainability Office and allocate more resources to sustainable efforts on campus.
The resolution, up for a vote at USG’s Senate today, seeks to expand the scope of environmentally friendly efforts at USC, according to John Baldo, USG’s director of university affairs.
“The resolution expresses the student body’s support for expanding USC’s Sustainability Program and asks the university to allocate more resources,” Baldo said.
According to USG President Holden Slusher, who presented the details of the resolution to the Board of Trustees earlier this month, the resolution arose from a need to make sustainability a more prominent and pressing issue on campus.
“We feel that it’s time that we had a visible office and made [sustainability] part of campus culture,” Slusher said.
USC is already implementing a number of
environment-friendly measures, including holding the Sustainability Steering Committee, a forum for students and administrators to discuss sustainability efforts.
But, the resolution claims, attendance at the committee has been lacking, and it also adds that on-campus environmentally friendly organizations do not have sufficient meeting space and that USC’s sustainability grade report has remain unchanged for the past three years.
“While the creation of the Steering Committee and establishing our [sustainability] program was a huge first step … it’s important that USC expand on that progress and continue to develop its program,” Baldo said.
He added that the resolution also attempts to address the lack of staffing at the Sustainability Office, which currently has just one full-time employee.
“The office is being flooded with ideas for projects and requests to be involved,” Baldo said. “The program does not have the capacity to coordinate all of these projects and capitalize on all the opportunities.”
As a result, the resolution recommends the inclusion of more full-time staff for the Office of Sustainability, and demands more office space to address student interest in improving USC’s environment.
“We would like to see the staff of the sustainability program expanded to include people who can coordinate student projects on a full-time basis,” Baldo said. “We have also proposed the idea of creating a fund, which would allow students to submit project proposals to improve campus sustainability and receive funding if selected.”
Baldo acknowledged that USC has made substantial efforts in making university operations more sustainable, through composting leftover food in the dining halls, providing a transportation fleet with diverse fuel sources, using hybrid vehicles and planning a LEED-certified building.
“But we’re lacking a large community element where students can become involved through their daily
lifestyle, on-campus activities and research through their classes,” Baldo said.
USG representatives have been in talks with the administrators to add to the university’s sustainability efforts, including a possible community garden, a refillable mug program for beverages and course credit for sustainability research in some classes.
Matthew Oden, USC’s sustainability program manager, said he appreciates USG’s effort to expand the program.
“The interactions our office has had with USG leaders in other contexts and projects has shown them the value of the Office of Sustainability and they have identified that we are currently under-capitalized and under-staffed,” Oden said.
Although the resolution, if passed, doesn’t require the administration to implement its recommendations, it displays a level of student interest in the success of the program.
“It clearly shows that sustainability is a critical and important issue to the student body and articulates that they want to see the university put more energy and resources into this area,” Oden said.
Leaders of campus sustainability organizations also feel the passage of the resolution will expand their efforts at USC.
“It would be a major step saying that USC is dedicated to becoming a sustainable campus,” said Yvette Ferrer, the chair of the California Public Interest Research Group at USC. “Having an office would allow student groups to come together and offer legitimacy to proposals made to USC administration for how to green our campus.”
Some students said they feel increasing the scope of the office is a step in the right direction for USC.
“It’s a good idea … USC definitely is lacking in sustainability practices and it needs to be addressed,” said Bri Baker, a junior majoring in communication and human development and aging. “If this office plans on making sustainability more well-known and practiced, and is done well … I support it.”
To pass, the resolution will need a simple majority from Senators at USG’s Senate meeting today.