Office of Sustainability looks to future
The Office of Sustainability, which was opened in 2009, has plans to finally establish a central location this summer and to hire a new manager.
Ed Becker, the executive director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety and the interim manager of the Office of Sustainability, said the office hopes to be responsive to students’ wants and needs regarding environmental issues on campus.
“The office is here to create a ‘living laboratory’ for sustainability, where the living laboratory is the campus,” Becker said. “Students can learn about it but they can also have a canvas to try things out.”
He said the office is in the final stages of hiring a new full-time manager to replace Matthew Oden, who was the university’s first full-time sustainability manager. That process should be complete next month.
The office’s has one full-time staff member and three student workers.
Becker said the office’s one other full-time staff member and three student workers work independently, so there is no central location. This summer, however, Becker said the office will move into 3232 Grand, where all members can work in one single designated space.
“It will be kind of a landing spot,” Becker said.
Since the office opened, Becker said the sustainability office has helped coordinate efforts among various campus stakeholders.
“Administrative units have been active for years on energy conservation projects, dining hall improvements, transportation enhancements, housing projects,” Becker said. “However, the beginning of coordinated activities has helped unite individuals working on like projects.”
Becker said the office does this by bringing all the departments together into one forum and enabling each to feed off the others. Before the office was created, every administrative department had its own sustainability initiatives.
“The office really serves as a central hub for coordinating a lot of activities,” Becker said. “It’s a place of information about what each program is doing.”
According to Daniela Arellano, a student worker in the Office of Sustainability, one of the big projects the office has been working on is the online Dashboard. The online tool will be easily accessible for anybody interested in learning where most of USC’s energy consumption comes.
Many on-campus buildings have special equipment that adds up the amount of energy consumed per building every 15 minutes. This information is sent to the Dashboard, which then adds it up for the day separated by each building individual and displays it online.
“If [people] learn something about sustainability or want to see if they can affect behavior in their dormitory, they will have enough information to track their progress,” Becker said.
To access the Dashboard, anyone interested — even those outside the USC community — can email the Office of Sustainability and get the username and password.
Arellano said the office hopes students will be interested in learning which departments are using the most energy.
“With the Dashboard, we hope we can develop a sort of culture to make people aware of what their buildings are using to encourage people to reduce their energy usage,” Arellano said.
Becker said in the coming years, the office hopes to launch a new marketing approach to engage incoming students in sustainability initiatives.
“We hope to make USC more sustainable by integrating everyone’s efforts ranging from student organizations, to what teachers are teaching in the classrooms, to the way a certain department purchases green products,” Arellano said.
Will Goldman, a junior majoring in music, said he would like to see the university continue striving to have the smallest carbon footprint possible.
“They should help us improve our ability to recycle more,” Goldman said. “And I would like to see the use of more recycled materials in the campus center.”