USC Sustainability 2020 (10/8)

According to a quick Google search, the University of Southern California has a 4.71 billion dollar endowment. To put it another way, USC has a shit ton of money. All that money is great for the students that attend the university because it engenders a better learning environment. However, it is far too common for those with money to disregard their own resource consumption simply because they have the financial means of procuring scarce resources. This mindset leads to overconsumption and waste. So what is the university doing to ensure that their actions are sustainable not in terms of money but in terms of resources and energy? Well the answers are outlined in the USC Sustainability 2020 plan.

An oasis requires two things; the desert around it and the water beneath it

My research into green spaces, especially those on college campuses, has lead to numerous articles on resource consumption and proper management techniques. Due to the intensity and duration of the drought, one of the most prominent issues over the past several years has been water consumption in southern California. The university already has several protocols in place that help minimize water waste. For example, many of the green spaces are irrigated with drip irrigation instead of traditional sprinkler systems. This method increases the percentage of water that is actually used by the plants. Additionally, the university has a policy that prevents the sprinkler systems from being active during the day. Watering the lawns and other green spaces at night reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation. These methods have helped significantly to reduce water consumption on campus, but in 2o15 Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-29–15 which requires universities to reduce water consumption by 25% by 2020. So the question remains, how do we go from these basic policies to a one fourth reduction in water consumption over the next several years?

According to the Sustainability 2020 plan, the university has three specific goals. First to reduce water consumption by 10% by 2017 and then reach the 25% target goal within the next three years. The second strategy they intend to implament is an awareness campaign to inform people about the current water conservation methods employed on campus. The third and final step outlined in the plan is an educational campaign that will help educate students, staff, and faculty about the necessity of water conservation and hopefully alter current behavioral practices.

This all sounds great but it really does not provide much direct action. Honestly, it seems like a lot of talk with very little force behind it. This plan does not include new policies and it lacks any in depth analysis on the means of meeting these goals. The goals are high and rapidly approaching. This kind of management is inadequate if the university seriously wants to meet its water sustainability goals.

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