Earth Month 2024

April 2, 2024

Happy Earth Month, Trojans!

Earth Month begins today, and I hope you’ll take the time to reflect on our planet and join USC’s efforts to create a more sustainable future. For inspiration, I encourage you to visit the Earth Month event calendar, where you’ll find over 50 sustainability-focused activities and events to help you do just that!

For me, Earth Month is a fitting time to share highlights of what’s possible when we all work together to focus efforts on President Carol Folt’s sustainability moonshot. 

President Folt launched Assignment: Earth in 2022. “Sustainability has been a top priority since Day One,” she said. “And what I found is that the USC community – especially our students – are leading the way. Our Presidential Working Group gathers inspiring ideas and initiatives from across our campuses and in our local communities. And working together, we find the best path forward for our university and our planet.”

We’ve already made tremendous progress, and I’ll start by saying how incredibly proud I am that USC has earned a gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

This award signifies remarkable sustainability leadership across environmental, social, and economic realms, and it’s something the entire Trojan community has been diligently working towards. So, a well-deserved congratulations to all.

When we launched Assignment: Earth, USC’s framework for creating a healthy, just, and thriving campus and world, we set some ambitious goals. In the two years since, we’ve made excellent progress, and I’m excited to highlight accomplishments occurring across our five domains – education, research, operations, equity and inclusion, and engagement.

The university has increased its core undergraduate sustainability course offerings.

Sustainability research continues to be an important focus. 

  • The President’s Sustainability Initiative Award has disbursed $1.5 million for research addressing:
    • A neighborhood-scale air quality sensor network to serve Los Angeles communities
    • The PFAS drinking water crisis in Southern California
    • Catalytic upcycling of polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
    • Establishing healthy coastal ecosystems via breeding of sunflower sea stars
    • The economics of climate change mitigation and adaptation
    • Converting plastics into high value chemicals

We’ve taken a number of bold steps to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2028.

  • Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced a whopping 43 percent since 2014 due in large part to our inking a major solar agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, receiving cleaner electricity from our utility, and implementing energy efficiency programs in campus buildings.
  • More than 3 million plastic bottles have been prevented from entering the waste stream since July 2022 when we instituted our single-use plastic beverage bottle elimination policy.
  • Over 580 multi-stream waste diversion bins have been installed by FPM in UPC and HSC buildings to help us properly sort our trash.  

Equity and Inclusion
We are continually working to align sustainability with our unifying value of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • The C.A.R.E. Challenge awards – Community, Accessibility, Restoration and Ecology – sponsored by the USC Office of Inclusion and Diversity is offering microgrants to programs at the intersection of sustainability and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

A culture that nurtures and cultivates sustainability is taking root.

  • Since opening last September, the USC Sustainability Hub in the Student Union has brought together students, faculty, and staff at over 130 events and is open every weekday for spontaneous drop-in and collaboration. 
  • TrojanLearn now offers an online Student Sustainability Training and on April 8, Employee Sustainability Training . The interactive content covers sustainability at both a global and university-level and offers ways each of us can get involved in creating a more sustainable future. For students who complete training by April 30, there’s a chance to win a $50 USC Bookstore gift certificate.

The accomplishments above are just a sampling of our progress. To learn more about Assignment: Earth and what USC is doing to address the climate crisis, restore our planet, and create more thriving communities, I encourage you to read the Assignment: Earth FY’23 Progress Report.

Happy Earth Month, Trojans, and my sincere thanks for all you’re doing to help us achieve our goals. Each of you plays a role in our progress and everything we do is connected.

Sustainability is a BIG assignment… and USC is all in!

Fight on!

Mick Dalrymple
Chief Sustainability Officer