USC cuts waste and water use in efforts to fulfill Assignment: Earth

A person planting a seedling

Chief Sustainability Officer Mick Dalrymple highlights both visible and invisible reductions in waste in the latest annual report for sustainability.

USC has significantly ramped up waste reduction and awareness of pollution under USC President Carol L. Folt and her Assignment: Earth initiative.

Since Folt’s arrival, the university has become home to an infrastructure of people, organizations, resources, research, outreach and communication dedicated to sustainability. This effort and its results are front and center in the newly released “Sustainability Progress Report” for fiscal year 2022.

Collecting data in several strategic areas — water use, transportation, sustainable purchasing and others — the report details the progress made from July 2021 to June 2022. Compared to the benchmarks set in 2014, the university has reduced its environmental impact — sometimes dramatically.

Some highlights:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions are down 31 percentage points since 2014.
  • Waste diversion is nearly 50%, a 100% improvement from 2019.
  • Potable water usage has decreased by 15% since 2014.
  • Single-passenger car usage dropped 7%.

The numbers, initiatives and progress are overseen by Mick Dalrymple, USC’s first chief sustainability officer. After two years at the helm, he has a clear pilot’s view of university’s wins and challenges. We spoke to him about this year’s report, some sustainability misconceptions and how the university will meet the goals set out by Assignment: Earth.

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