The USC Board of Trustees recently passed six resolutions aimed at enhancing sustainability on campus, though some students question how effective the broad resolutions will be.
On Jan. 27, the Campus Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees passed these resolutions to reinforce USC’s plan to maintain a sustainable campus in terms of environmental degradation, energy conservation, water conservation, waste reduction and building construction. Though the resolutions call for improvement in these areas, they do not specify methods or timelines.
Matthew Oden, manager of the sustainability program, said the resolutions will help focus the university’s sustainability efforts and set guidelines for future developments on campus.
“The university in many ways is already fulfilling these resolutions, but [the resolutions] put the university in a position to be more aggressive in some of the areas and to give a clearer understanding of a policy basis that will implement new ideas and fresh thinking,” Oden said.
The resolutions, Oden said, will help USC build on the efforts that are already in place.
In accordance with the resolutions, the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center, which is currently scheduled to open in August of this year, will be the first building at USC to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Additionally, USC is encouraging students and faculty to use alternative forms of transportation that will limit emissions and to be mindful of turning off lights and office equipment.
Many sustainability experts at USC find the resolutions to be a good beginning to reaching the university’s ultimate goals.
“They’re not really that broad based in terms of trying to change, but they’re well-defined goals that USC can meet,” said Lisa Schweitzer, an assistant professor in the School of Policy, Planning and Development.
Mark Bernstein, managing director of the USC Energy Institute, agreed USC is headed in the right direction.
“These resolutions show great interest to look toward the future of the university. Although they are just big goals, what will work will be the operational plans that are implemented to meet these goals,” he said.
Perhaps because the resolutions only establish an outline of the university’s plans, some students question whether they will be effective.
Matt Herrick, a freshman majoring in communication, said he is skeptical that the resolutions will be beneficial without strict enforcement.
“[The resolutions] sound pretty good, but I just don’t see how [the university] can enforce some of these rules in the dorms … USC should take a direct initiative to target students to make it more personal so people can see the direct effects,” Herrick said.
Herrick mentioned placing a limit on showering to restrict water usage as an example to show students the importance of water conservation.
Another student, Melinda Amato, a sophomore majoring in sociology, said she agrees with Herrick that there is more USC can do to improve the school’s sustainability.
“We haven’t done as much as other universities have in terms of sustainability. I’ve heard of some colleges that allow students to bring Tupperware into the dining halls to not waste as much food,” Amato said. “We still haven’t really explored the whole realm of options to improve our sustainability.”
Mapaul Espina, a junior majoring in computer science, said he thinks the resolutions solidify USC’s commitment to going green.
“[These resolutions] are good news as long as the students and faculty play an important role,” Espina said. “To do this, we need to let the everyone know that USC is going green.”
Oden noted that these resolutions are not USC’s first steps toward becoming a greener campus.
He said that USC already has a waste diversion rate of 54 percent, which Oden said is good given the circumstances.
“The diversion rate measures all of the trash that leaves the university and is recycled. The recycling rate is actually really high, but none of the trash that is picked from the trash cans actually ‘leaves’ the university,” Oden said. “On paper, it might appear that the recycling rate doesn’t look that good, but realistically we are a leader.”
Oden said USC also has one of the most advanced water conservation systems in terms of measuring the saturation of the soil. Drip irrigation is used only when and where it is needed. In addition, the majority of the plants and shrubs seen around campus are drought resistant, with the exception of certain ornamental areas, he said.