This USC Hospitality Teaching Garden’s output will be used in menu development for Residential Restaurants.

Purchasing decisions ultimately impact all key areas of sustainability, making sustainable procurement a crucial tool in facilitating progress toward the university’s sustainability goals. Purchasing at USC is a highly decentralized process; each department can purchase from any university-approved vendor so long as the transaction complies with university purchasing guidelines.

However, the bulk of USC’s food purchases are made by USC Hospitality, and the bulk of logo merchandise is purchased by USC Bookstores. These large areas of consolidation create opportunities for sustainable practices with strong impact. The USC teams that carry out these purchasing decisions are committed to supporting sustainability initiatives by leveraging the university’s buying power and supplier partnerships.


Sustainable Purchasing Initiatives

Sustainable Purchasing Website

The Sustainable Purchasing page of the USC Business Services site is designed to provide guidance on the purpose of “buying green,” what it means to buy green, and how to create a more sustainable USC by buying green. To assist in knowing what to look for as USC staff teams shop for goods and services, the Green Certifications page displays industry-standard green certifications across various commodities. The Buying Green page features suppliers that are heavily used by the university, including instructions on how to source products that help us achieve USC’s sustainability goals.

Trojan Shop Local

Trojan Shop Local started as a USC student-led grass roots movement by the USC Black Student Assembly and other students to give back and support local and diverse small businesses neighboring USC campuses during the pandemic. Today it is a network of over 60 diverse small businesses across Los Angeles.

Trojan Shop Local retail establishments include everything from coffee houses to restaurants; gift shops to designer ateliers; chic boutiques, bookstores, salons, barber shops, home décor and more. In every corner of our Trojan Shop Local neighborhoods, you’ll find valuable services and merchandise and treasured stories that reflect our communities and their varied cultural heritages. All USC Trojan students, faculty, staff, families, and friends are invited to reconnect to — or discover for the first time — the unique experiences of shopping local! Check out nearby businesses on the Trojan Shop Local Directory.

Sustainable Food Purchasing

USC Hospitality has exceeded the Sustainability 2020 goal of 20 percent sustainable food purchasing by 2020. As of December 2020, 41.4 percent of USC Hospitality’s food purchases came from sustainable sources, broken out by percentage points per category as follows:

Reporting is based on Residential Restaurant units only. Restaurants, banquets & catering, and “retail” (franchise and branded/packaged food products) were too demand-driven for inclusion in the initial Sustainability 2020 measurement period. Data will be updated semi-annually.

What Counts as Sustainable?

USC Hospitality uses the following food categories and definitions in its sustainability metrics:

Seafood is sustainable if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch Sustainability Ranking System (MBA Sustainable)
  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)
  • Sea Pact Member (sustainability improvement within seafood industry)

Protein (meat) is sustainable if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Never Ever Program Member ​(​hormone free/antibiotic free/not fed animal by-products)
  • Certified Humane Raised & Handled
  • American Grassfed Association Certified (AGA Certified)
  • Pasture Raised

Produce is sustainable if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Locally sourced within 275 mile radius or within the state
  • Antibiotic free
  • USDA Organic
  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
  • Protected Harvest Certified
  • Non-GMO Project Certified
  • Farm Sustainability Assessment
  • Sustainably Grown Certified

Groceries are sustainable if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • USDA Organic
  • Fair Trade Certified
  • Non-GMO Certified
  • Global Growers
  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Dairy is sustainable if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Locally sourced within 275 mile radius or within the state
  • USDA Organic
  • Non-GMO Certified
  • Antibiotic Free
  • Pasture Raised
  • USDA Graded Cage-free
  • rBST free

Disposable Items are sustainable if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) Certified Compostable
  • Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) Certified
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified
  • USDA Certified Biobased Product
  • EcoLogo Certified
  • Green Seal Certified

Sustainable Procurement Assessment and Education

In 2018, USC Procurement Services began a sustainability assessment to gradually introduce guidelines, goals, standards, best practices, and information for procuring earth-friendly products and services.

Commodities targeted include:

  • Paper
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Janitorial paper
  • Ink/Toner
  • Office supplies
  • Electronics
  • Medical research

As part of the Sustainability 2020 Plan, USC Procurement Services is rolling out sustainable products information to every departmental purchasing agent, highlighting the best options available when making purchasing decisions.

USC Procurement is focused on providing options for schools and departments to procure sustainable products and services through USC’s preferred suppliers. Some recent efforts include standardizing office copy paper from 0% recycled content to 30% post-consumer recycled content, and providing easy access to shopping from Office Depot’s “Greener Office” products catalog.

Office Depot Sustainable Shipping Program 

Office Depot, one of USC’s main catalog suppliers, ships goods to USC departments and offices utilizing reusable plastic totes and recycled paper bags in order to minimize cardboard and packing material waste.

Sustainability and Diversity

While USC Procurement Services has adopted the goal of promoting sustainable purchases, it remains equally committed to supplier equity. In collaboration with the Small Business Diversity Office, USC Procurement Services uses diverse suppliers, including women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses. To learn more, read about our Local and Historically Underutilized Business Consultant Focus.

USC Teaching Gardens

In April 2016, USC Hospitality opened the USC Teaching Garden, a vertical, Aeroponic Tower Garden® created with the help of LA Urban Farms. This 60 x 20 square-foot urban farm yields 2,640 edible plants year-round. The towers use 90 percent less water and 90 percent less land than traditional gardens. USC is the first university in the nation to have an aeroponics farming effort of this scale.

What is aeroponics? It’s the process of growing plants in air- or mist-based environments. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers can all be grown aeroponically without the use of any soil or harmful chemicals. All seeds used in the USC Teaching Garden are organic. Plants are fed natural, water-based ionic minerals and plant nutrients. The towers are made of FDA-food-grade-approved plasic and UV stabilized for outdoor protection.

The garden is harvested twice a week. Produce that would normally come from more than 250 miles away is grown within three city blocks of USC Hospitality’s three full-service restaurants (Moreton Fig, The Lab Gastropub and McKay’s) and one residential restaurant (Everybody’s Kitchen). Together, these four establishments receive about 360 pounds of greens and 50 pounds of herbs a month.


Planning for Sustainability 2028

USC recognizes that procurement is a powerful tool in promoting all other aspects of campus sustainability. We remain committed to promoting responsible purchasing decisions that support our forthcoming 2028 energy, waste, and water goals. We plan to build on our successful procurement initiatives and streamline sustainable procurement processes to further build sustainability into the way USC does business.

See below for notes from the Sustainability Steering Committee’s 2028 Planning procurement meetings: