USC’s emissions less than two-thirds of 2014 baseline, latest sustainability update reports

Chart: Total Absolute Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions

In stride with its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, USC’s greenhouse gas emissions last year marked a 31% drop compared to its baseline year of 2014, according to the University’s 2022 Sustainability Progress Report

The report, released Friday, details the University’s sustainability successes and ongoing challenges as part of the Carol Folt administration’s Assignment: Earth, a framework for “a greener campus and planet.” 

Despite a trend of emission reductions, last year’s scope one and two emissions — those owned or controlled by the University — grew about 30,000 from 2021, when pandemic-time building closures and remote operation led to a drop in energy use. 

The largest chunk of USC’s emissions in 2022 came from purchased electricity, most of which is sourced from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. More than 60% of L.A.’s energy was carbon-free in February 2022 thanks to investments in wind energy, as well as solar and battery energy storage. 

Though the University entered into a solar energy deal with LADWP last October, Chief Sustainability Officer Mick Dalrymple said he doesn’t anticipate any more separate energy agreements as long as LADWP continues to decarbonize its electricity sourcing. USC likely won’t beat UCLA’s goal of obtaining 100% clean electricity by 2025, he said, which is made possible by the UC system’s own utility and solar array. 

USC’s sustainability initiatives have also doubled down on waste, aiming for zero waste by 2028. Last year saw a 47% campus-wide waste diversion rate, which Dalrymple said is “not a bad number” considering the 2028 goal. The University installed 72 new multi-stream bins at the University Park and Health Sciences Campuses to sort waste. 

HSC had the lowest waste diversion rate among USC facilities and campuses at 22%, partly as a result of the large amount of medical waste from disposable supplies. New initiatives are underway, Dalrymple said, to increase waste diversion at HSC. 

“One of the initiatives that they’re undertaking is to replace the disposable gowns, which they said is an enormous amount of trash every day, and they’re replacing them with reusable gowns that will now go to a laundry service,” he said. “They’ve got about four or five initiatives that they are undertaking to dramatically bring up this number.”

The diversion rate at the Coliseum reached 86% for the 2021 football season, with 64.25 tons of waste that avoided landfills, and climbed to 92% for the 2022 football season. 

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