The crosstown rivalry took on another dimension last week as USC’s Environmental Student Assembly competed with UCLA to see who could rack up the most pledges to conserve water. The campaign took place through Change the Course, an organization that aims to encourage water conservation and put water back into the Colorado River.
“People pledge, by texting or online, that they will reduce water themselves and that they want it to happen on a much wider scale,” said Kyleen Marcella, ESA co-assistant director. “We thought this would be an excellent way to use the rivalry between the two schools to support a good cause and help spread awareness of the importance of water conservation.”
To take the pledge in support of the USC side, supporters could text “TROJANS” to 77177, and 1,000 more gallons of water would be added to the river.
ESA has done similar work previously, including a photo campaign to lessen environmental impact and a video competition to promote sustainability. The group began their efforts last spring, and this year, they wanted to get involved with rivalry week.
“We have been in talks with UCLA about a competition during rivalry week since the summer, but we finally decided we wanted to specifically address the drought once school started,” Marcella said. “Ultimately, we advocate for environmental issues on campus and support greater environmental education, and this campaign ties in perfectly with our mission.”
Members of ESA have spoken with several students concerned about the drought, and they see this competition as an accessible way for them to become environmentally involved and to spread awareness. They also hoped to show students that large organizations such as Coca-Cola and Disney support water conservation.
“Because USC and UCLA are two huge centers of Los Angeles, our water consumption is a huge part of L.A.’s overall water consumption,” said Shawn Rhoads, ESA executive director. “It’s important that we as two universities come together and recognize this.”
To encourage students to take the pledge, ESA created a Facebook event page advertising the competition. About 300 people texted for Team USC.
“It’s such a small gesture, and it’s so easy, requiring very little work but still having a big impact,” said Sarah Nuslein, a junior majoring in business administration. “I did it initially for the rivalry component, but after I thought about all the good it would do regarding the Colorado River, it seemed like a no brainer.”
So far, more than 91,000 pledges have been made for the overall campaign, equaling more than 91 million gallons of water. As for the rivalry competition, UCLA had made over 400 more pledges than USC as of press time. The competition closed on Sunday, Nov. 23 at 11:59 p.m., and the winner was to be announced shortly afterward.
Rhoads stressed that no matter what the outcome, actions such as this can make change. “Everyone taking the pledge to reduce water consumption can make a significant difference.”