Sustainability at USC

Over the past decade, sustainability at USC has been a shared responsibility that touches all facets of our community. Since 2008, the university is focused on integrating sustainability as a core value in USC’s strategic planning, and implementing impactful sustainability initiatives.

USC’s sustainability vision is executed by teams and committees comprised of students, staff, faculty, and senior administrators working in close partnership with key vendors and City managers.

How We Got Here

  • 1984: Central climate control system installed
  • 1993: Environmental Studies program (ENST) founded
  • 1995: Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies founded
  • 2000: Central chilled water plant – Cromwell Field thermal storage tank comes on-line
  • 2008:
    • USC commissions the Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC) to advance sustainability on campus, and creates the Office of Sustainability to help implement sustainable practices
    • Board of Trustees approves six resolutions to strengthen the university’s commitment to sustainability
  • 2014:
    • USC students form the Environmental Student Association (ESA) to advocate for sustainability on campus
    • Solar power array installed at Wrigley Institute, Catalina Island
  • 2015:
    • SSC launches the Sustainability 2020 Plan
    • Academic Senate Sustainability Subcommittee established
  • 2016: LA Coliseum becomes the first collegiate and professional football venue to achieve Zero Waste status
  • 2017:
    • Provost funds an initial round of 2020 Plan projects, in waste diversion, procurement, and water conservation
    • The Office of Sustainability relaunches its website
    • The Office of Sustainability distributes the 2017 Sustainability Annual Report, the first comprehensive overview of all campus sustainability initiatives, and a report on the progress towards achieving the 2020 Goals
    • LA Coliseum wins the Pac 12 Sustainability Award for a Zero Waste venue
  • 2018:
    • Funding for three energy efficiency projects is authorized
    • USC completes its first GHG emissions survey, a significant step towards STARS certification (a universally-accepted, broad-based measure of our sustainability progress)
    • LA Coliseum wins the Pac 12 Sustainability Award for Zero Waste venue for the 2nd year
  • 2019: 
    • Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Steering Committee begin the 2028 Sustainability planning process  
    • Carol L. Folt is inaugurated as USC’s 12th president and outlines sustainability as one of her main strategic priorities
    • USC Transportation rolls out a 50% subsidy on public transit costs for faculty and staff commuting to all USC campuses 
    • Greenhouse gas emissions reach a 33% reduction level from the baseline year of 2014, achieving a large goal of the Sustainability 2020 Plan 
    • President Folt announces the formation of the Presidential Working Group on Sustainable Education, Research, and Operations, a collaborative effort to develop a comprehensive, university-wide approach to sustainability
  • 2020: 
    • The Galen Center hosts its first “Green Game” to promote waste diversion at the athletics venue 
    • USC’s largest solar panel installation project is completed at the Galen Center and provides 15% of the arena’s energy 

Where We Are Headed

USC remains firmly focused on achieving the numerous Goals set out in the 2020 Plan, while simultaneously beginning the process of developing our 2028 Plan. The Office of Sustainability, in conjunction with the Sustainability Steering Committee, leads this effort, along with substantial involvement and input from all key stakeholders.

Creating a sustainable USC remains a shared responsibility between many staff, faculty, and students. Now, USC is capitalizing on increased support for sustainability initiatives, ensuring that the university takes appropriate action to address today’s pressing environmental concerns. 

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