Green efforts on campus wilting more than growing

USC is not exactly renowned for being a “green” school.

College of the 21st century though we might be, our efforts in sustainability  leave a lot to be desired, especially when compared to such eco-friendly universities as CU Boulder or even UCLA.

The USC administration is slowly trying to steer its massive facilities in an environmentally conscious direction, and one of the greatest difficulties in this is just how multi-faceted “greening” an entire campus really is.

Alice Li | Daily Trojan

To try to manage this, USC created the Office of Sustainability, which has resolved for 2010 to include minimizing environmental impact, maximizing the purchase of electricity from renewable resources, conserving water, recycling, organizing “green” incentive programs and designing buildings that meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

Of the 360-plus buildings that are considered USC property, both on campus and in the surrounding areas, only one has been LEED certified — the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. It is certainly a step in the right direction, as LEED-certified buildings save up to 30-40 percent more energy than non-LEED buildings.

Unfortunately, the only other buildings on campus queued up for this certification are the School of Cinematic Arts and the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research. Such vigorous planning and reconstruction efforts should be made where it matters most — student housing.

An application on the  Office of Sustainability’s website called Dashboard allows users to view daily energy consumption in certain buildings on campus, including student housing.

Energy consumption in suite-style housing such as Parkside International and Arts & Humanities residential colleges and Fluor Tower is especially high. Not surprisingly, no building at USC is Energy Star labeled, according to USC’s 2010 Sustainability Report Card.

As for converting to renewable resources, efforts are sluggish at best. The report card gave USC a D in the Climate Change & Energy category, Ds in Green Building and Shareholder Engagement and an F in Endowment Transparency, noting that USC has yet to complete a long-overdue greenhouse gas emissions inventory for 2010, has yet to make feasible efforts toward utilizing renewable resources and going coal-free and has yet to retrofit the lighting on campus.

Water conservation is one aspect that has somewhat improved. In recent years USC has purchased renewable energy through its long-standing and somewhat exclusive contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; in 2006, 7 percent of energy consumed by the university came from Los Angeles City Eligible Renewable Resources.

During the past three years, Facilities Management Services has introduced a central irrigation system on campus wherein approximately 80 percent of grass is currently serviced by the Calsense Central Irrigation Control System.

This system helps offset irrigation by sensing wind levels, gauging rainfall and monitoring water flow in pipes. The 3-million gallon water storage tank beneath Cromwell Field also saves USC about 4,500 megawatts of electricity a year, and as of 2010 USC is looking to expand its chilled water thermal energy circulation — it’s currently serviced by the pump house in the basement of Grace Ford Salvatori Hall.

As a school of with an endowment of $2.4 billion (as of March 2009), USC can surely afford to divest more efforts into addressing all aspects of “greening” our school. Something as simple as putting compost bins in dormitories and dining areas can potentially reduce our waste by the ton.

Encouraging alternative transportation for students can help individuals contribute, be it by offering student discounts on bus/metro passes or making USC more bike-friendly by adding bike racks rather than taking them away.

There’s no need to wait for Earth Day to worry about the environment. USC has both the funds and the management necessary to implement projects both big and small that can transform our campus.

Xueyou Wang is a freshman majoring in creative writing.