USC News

Menu Search

Waste diversion, Solar Decathlon help USC go green

Trojans come together for sustainability

McCarthy Quad is transformed into a farmers market every Wednesday. (USC Photo/Philip Channing)

USC’s official colors are cardinal and gold, but the campus also cares about another hue: green. The USC Office of Sustainability, academic programs, university departments and student groups are all pulling together to make the University Park Campus more sustainable. Here are a few recent initiatives:

Farmers Market: Every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., McCarthy Quad is transformed into a farmers market with stands filled with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to kettle corn and boba. Justin Bogda, program and student outreach coordinator for the USC Office of Sustainability, works to “make sustainability fun for students and increase participation.”

This semester the office had free giveaways for students, including reusable tote bags and water bottles as well as gift cards to Nekter Juice Bar. Bogda, an environmental studies and international relations double major at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said they are planning two more giveaways in April.

The market is not only an accessible and convenient place to buy locally grown food, but it’s also a platform to promote student involvement in USC sustainability efforts. It debuted in fall 2013 and is sponsored in part by the USC Office for Wellness and Health Promotion and USC Sustainability.

Tailgate Waste Diversion: USC’s tailgates are famous for their spirit and excitement but infamous for the waste they create. USC Sustainability recognized this issue and, beginning in the 2012 football season, tackled it by teaching USC fans how to redirect refuse into its proper places. The result — 11,500 pounds of material were recycled in the 2012 season. Halli Bovia, sustainability program manager, explained that her “staff leads teams of peer educators who educate tailgaters on how to compost and recycle and divert waste from landfills on game day.”

Tailgate hosts can lead the effort by applying for a Zero Waste Tailgate Certificate, which recognizes 90 percent diversion of waste from landfills and incinerators. Three tailgate party groups achieved gold status during the 2013 football season, according to Liam Duffy, zero waste certification coordinator and a computer science major at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Solar Decathlon: In 2013, USC competed in the Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, placing 10th overall with its innovative student-designed and built fluxHome. Sponsored by the USC School of Architecture, the 960-square-foot home constructed on the USC campus offered creative features such as solar chimneys and edible vertical gardens. Only four teams were selected to represent California in this international competition. As part of the fluxHome team, students from a number of majors gained valuable experience in planning and building environmentally sensitive housing.

Urban Garden: Since spring 2010, USC has operated a community garden at 3015 Shrine Place. The garden, which produces fresh fruit and vegetables, is the location for monthly events where gardening skills are taught. Students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to attend. On March 28, from noon to 1 p.m., the topic will be soil amendment planting preparation, and on April 11, from noon to 1 p.m., a compost workshop is scheduled. USC Sustainability and Urban Farming, a nonprofit organization, established the garden to promote community health and knowledge.

Environmental Student Assembly: Sustainability at USC recently evolved in a new and exciting direction when the Environmental Student Assembly was created to bring together a number of student environmental groups. The groups held their first event, a Green Awareness Fair, in February, and, said Bovia, “We’re partnering with the Environmental Student Assembly to do a huge series of events in April for Earth Month. For more information, go to In addition to Earth Month, a residence hall energy competition to cut costs and save energy and a green labs program are on the group’s radar screen.

Reuse instead of recycle: No need to buy bottled water. USC students can refill their “I Am a Trojan” water bottles. Orientation Programs distributes the bottles to incoming freshmen and transfer students. Residence hall students can use the refilling stations that were installed in all campus housing facilities over a year ago. Keenan Cheung, director of housing, estimated that, as of Jan. 31, the stations had saved more than 870,000 plastic bottles. “We track this number monthly and hope to hit our 1 million-bottles-saved mark by the end of April,” he said.

Students who drink coffee in addition to water can bring their own coffee mugs to the Ground Zero Performance Café to receive a 25-cent discount.

Student opportunities: USC students have the opportunity to get involved in existing programs or create new ones. USC Sustainability offers student assistant positions, internships for college credit and many volunteer opportunities.

More stories about: ,

Waste diversion, Solar Decathlon help USC go green

Top stories on USC News