ESA celebrates first year and Earth Month

The Environmental Student Assembly kicked off Earth Month  on Wednesday in McCarthy Quad by celebrating its first anniversary as a USC student assembly. ESA, which programs events promoting green culture, sustainability and environmental advocacy, hosted local nonprofits and organizations, served free food and organized other activities to promote green living.

The newest addition to Program Board, ESA was first founded as a pilot project as a result of a Undergraduate Student Government resolution. ESA was created in order to bring together all environmental groups on campus and serve as their resource. With the goal of promoting sustainability while increasing environmental awareness and action on campus, ESA was officially voted into the USG constitution on April 1, 2014, the first day of Earth Month 2014.

Earth Month, held every year in April, involves a series of event programming that provides opportunities for students to celebrate and learn about the environment. This year will mark the second annual Earth Month at USC.

Some of the vendors who spread their initiatives in the greater L.A. area at ESA’s event last night included Global Green USA, Friends of the Los Angeles River, Green Grounds Los Angeles, California Greenworks, Inc. and TreePeople.

Besides raising awareness and promoting local green companies and non profits, Shawn Rhoads, executive director of ESA, said the purpose of ESA’s First Birthday Party and Awareness Fair was to celebrate the hard work, accomplishments and energy of the organization in its first year.

“There has always been a desire and need for sustainability on campus,” Rhoads said. “Many students and faculty/staff have always voiced their concerns, but the lack of community served as a roadblock for many initiatives to be implemented. For example, two organizations were working on the same campaign, at the same time, but didn’t realize it.”

ESA has become USC’s largest “green” initiative, encompassing 20 student organizations and executing impressive programs, such as the ESA Certification Program for Events, #ECOTALKS with Terry Tamminen and Ed Begley Jr., a lecture by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, USC Earth Month and the USC Green Engagement Fund. By the end of the spring, ESA will have held or co-sponsored 80 events since its founding.

Rhoads said that he has been working on closing the gap between students, faculty and staff regarding sustainability. One attempt included holding the Environmental Student Forum, which connected the four major environmental groups on campus: ESA, the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies department and the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.

“As one of the results of the forum, we created the USC Sustainability Action Network which met for the first time last Friday, comprising of [more than] 40 representatives of so many faculty and staff members from various departments, undergraduate students and graduate students,” Rhoads said. “We will be starting a movement that will shake up USC on Monday.”

ESA collaborated with Global Inheritance on the upcoming event Greenfest this Saturday, during which the L.A.-based nonprofit will teach people about the benefits and costs of different energy sources. Global Inheritance will bring Energy Playground, which includes human hamster wheels and seesaws to power cell phone charging stations.

Rhoads also said he is looking forward to seeing what ESA will accomplish in the future.

“I hope we can continue to channel our energy into even bigger programs and initiatives with more collaboration and support next year,” Rhoads said. “We still have a lot up our sleeves, and I have no doubt that ESA will move USC towards an environmentally-sustainable future.”

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the resolution to create the Environmental Student Assembly was drafted by one member of Undergraduate Student Government. It was actually drafted by several members of USG. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.