Provost Michael Quick released a comprehensive sustainability plan for the University called Sustainability 2020 in an e-mail memorandum to students. Created by the 2014-15 Sustainable Steering Committee, a group composed of faculty, staff and student representatives, the plan describes 17 sustainability goals in the areas of engagement, energy conservation, transportation, procurement, waste diversion and water conservation.
“As USC rises to meet the powerful challenges of the 21st century, environmental sustainability must take priority in our teaching, research, operations and facilities,” Quick told USC News. “Sustainability 2020 provides a framework for progress and accountability to the USC community, the greater Los Angeles area and even to the world on how we will focus our work in this critical area.”
The plan comes five years after the Campus Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees passed campus sustainability resolutions and one year after the Undergraduate Student Government formed the Environmental Student Assembly.
Noteworthy goals include efforts to increase environmental literacy in science curricula, use campuses as “living laboratories” for sustainability and increase awareness about alternative transportation, waste reduction and water conservation practices.
By 2020, the plan envisions 75 percent waste diversion levels, a 25 percent decrease in potable water use, 25 percent sustainable food purchase levels and 75 percent participation of USC departments and offices in responsible purchasing practices.
While the plan has been met with student support, some sustainability advocates on campus see the plan as a core framework rather than an end goal. Shawn Rhoads, a senior double majoring in physics and psychology and a member of the committee responsible for the plan, said that though the plan is comprehensive, the University should pursue larger objectives.
“When we see these numbers — 25 percent potable water use reduction by 2020 — we want to aim for higher than that, but that’s our baseline achievement goal,” Rhoads said. “We should be trying to increase what we want to accomplish.”
The Sustainability Steering Committee will collaborate with subcommittees and other university officials to implement the goals presented in the plan.
“This is something that requires a lot of important departments — of operations, of research, of academia,” Rhoads said. “To accomplish this vision that we see for the university, we need everyone to be on the same page.”