USC Environmental Student Assembly holds 2020 sustainability forum

The USC Environmental Student Assembly hosted a forum on the Sustainability 2020 program at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center on Tuesday, which updated students on the initiative’s progress thus far and provided an opportunity for questions and comments.

The event outlined the goals proposed by Sustainability 2020 and the steps that have been taken to meet them. The main speaker was Halli Bovia, program manager of USC’s Office of Sustainability.

Sustainability 2020 is a far-reaching plan aimed at mitigating USC’s overall environmental impact. Utilizing STARS, a widely recognized program designed to measure a university’s environmental footprint, USC compared its sustainability profile to peer institutions in order to gauge its strengths and weaknesses relative to other universities. The Sustainability 2020 committee then collaborated with students, faculty, administration and other stakeholders to draft a plan that will capitalize on these opportunities and eliminate shortcomings.

Some of the primary goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent per square foot, purchasing 20 percent of food from sustainable sources, achieving 75 percent waste diversion levels and decreasing potable water use by 25 percent, all within the next four years.

Several tangible projects have been implemented to reach these milestones, including the installation of LED lights in residence halls and apartments on and off campus, as well as stickers in restrooms that encourage using water sparingly. There is also a proposal to install solar panels on the roof of the Galen Center, which is awaiting approval from the administration.

Bovia said that she was pleased with the progress that has been made, highlighting that Sustainability 2020 is the first initiative that brings together so many different stakeholders.

“[Sustainability 2020] is the first University-wide sustainability plan,” Bovia said. “It’s the first effort that’s bringing together all the divisions of the University, and we haven’t done that before. What we’re working on next is … tightening up [our plan] and figuring out where to go next.”

She also noted the different ways Sustainability 2020 is trying to engage students who are unaware of or uninterested in the program.

“We’ve got a committee that is getting put together to work on … informational campaigns and behavior change campaigns,” Bovia said.

Megan White, a junior majoring in environmental studies and geological sciences and a member of  the USC Environmental Core, said that the administration’s slow-moving nature is one of the biggest obstacles Sustainability 2020 faces going forward.

“One of the things we need to work on the most is getting a better response from the administration,” White said. “Students can only go so far. We don’t have the funding for any of these projects we’re trying to push.”

Zachary Manta, a senior majoring in environmental studies as well as the director of the environmental core and the advisor for Sustainability Issues on the USG Advocacy Committee, said this event was important for uniting sustainability efforts across campus and promoting greater coordination between these groups.

“I think this event was really important to have to open up the dialogue between everybody and reach across the different departments and groups at USC,” Manta said. “In order for [progress] to continually happen, I think it is really important that [the] senior administration takes [the] initiative to create a regular, centralized, funded structure that allows these initiatives to bridge the gaps they need to bridge.”