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Sustainability Expert Joins USC

Sustainability Expert Joins USC
Matthew Oden will pursue the establishment of an overall university environmental metrics system and data collection protocols at USC.

He doesn’t own a car: On any workday morning, you’ll find Matthew Oden taking the L.A. Metro Bus No. 550 southbound from West Hollywood to the USC University Park campus.

He tries to avoid water bottles: He offers tap water filtered through a pitcher to those who visit his office.

He doesn’t use much energy: Before moving to Los Angeles for this job, he paid a premium to live in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified building in the Bay Area – not because the cash was easy to come by, but to support this type of development.

He’s self-sufficient: He has spent two summers living and working in Yellowstone National Park – backpacking and fishing in the backcountry and climbing throughout the Teton Range. He also spent eight months alone hitchhiking around East and North Africa in addition to spearfishing, climbing and trekking through remote mountain ranges.

In short, Oden represents the new generation of concerned global citizens, and he’s on a mission to ensure that the Earth ultimately benefits from the actions of the species homo sapiens.

Oden, who recently joined USC as sustainability program manager, brings to the university a fresh look at every aspect of its operations with one goal in mind: to help seek ways to reduce USC’s environmental impact.

“We are so pleased that Matthew Oden has joined USC – he will work with all departments to envision and implement organizational strategies to help USC become a national model of sustainability in higher education,” said Charlie Lane, USC associate senior vice president for Career and Protective Services. “In addition, he will help develop broad awareness of the many sustainability initiatives currently under way and develop a university-wide process to support sustainability inquiry, change and assessment.”

Among the proposed program goals Oden will pursue are the establishment of an overall university environmental metrics system and data collection protocols. Among other activities, the effort would record baselines and set institutional goals for energy and water use, conduct a greenhouse gas inventory and set standards for waste management and recycling.

One of Oden’s first meetings this semester was with a collection of students representing the advocacy groups CALPIRG, Net Impact and Environment First as well as student government groups. All agreed to expand the upcoming Earth Day (April 22) into a week of events.

Among the projects also being considered: a plastic bag swap, a water bottle lottery event, increased coordination and cooperation by students in recycling at campus housing facilities, a “green” fashion show, increased speaking opportunities for off-campus corporate environmental leaders and a renewed drive for public transportation use.

Oden, a perennial multitasker, has associations with several environmental organizations. He is a climate project messenger for Al Gore’s The Climate Project, a consultant for the international environmental consulting firm Kema Inc. and a research assistant for the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

While earning his Master of Engineering Management degree at Yale, he served as a consultant for the university’s Center for Business and the Environment, as an intern for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research in Switzerland and as an energy adviser to the United Nations.

He previously worked for an international travel company, leading tours through North America, Europe and New Zealand. He earned his B.S. in environmental science with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a lab assistant for soil carbon dynamics research, and he was an intern for the Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives.

Growing Momentum at USC for Sustainability

USC’s overall sustainability efforts have intensified in recent years, with the establishment of a campus-wide sustainability steering committee that includes faculty, students, and staff representation; new arrangements with vendors to reduce waste; new courses on sustainability; and major investments in energy efficiency and water conservation. USC last year became a member of AASHE, the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promote sustainability and provide resources for member institutions.

Among the many sustainability benchmarks recentlly achieved: half of USC’s trash is now recycled (, university purchasing and business services has instituted sustainability measures and new purchasing guidelines (, several sustainability courses have debuted at the undergraduate and graduate levels (, and the campus sustainability committee issued a progress report detailing conservation activities across the institution and recommending additional measures (

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