Friday, April 22, 2011

Collaborative effort making USC sustainable

By Judit Trunkos

Sustainable Carolina’s Learning Center for Sustainable Futures stands out not only in the South but nation-wide with its green educational and outreach events.  Thanks to the campus-wide collaborative effort to make USC sustainable, USC is ranked top five on the list of top LEED-certified buildings, and is one of the greenest campuses in the country.

In fact, the Darla Moore School of Business is pursuing a net-zero status and LEED Platinum rating for its new building. A net-zero building produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. USC expects to break ground on the new business school this fall.  The Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library will also celebrate its award of a LEED Gold rating this year.

“If the Moore School reaches its goals, it will become the largest net-zero building in the world and the most energy-efficient building in the country. To see South Carolina ranked among the top states in the country is gratifying, as it shows that our commitment to sustainability and education is producing results,”  said Michael Koman, Director of the Office of Sustainability.

USC is committed to sustainable principles and is helping others build green. On campus these projects include a LEED Gold rating for Honors Residence in 2010.

According to Koman, USC has constructed three LEED buildings that comprise 517,983 square feet of space.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was created by the U.S. Green Building Council and it is internationally recognized green building certification system, providing verification that a building or community is designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in energy savings.

The university’s Columbia campus will more than double that figure in the next two years with the completion of several projects, including the renovation of  a residence hall, and a building on the historic Horseshoe.

USC does not get extra money to build LEED certified facilities, and they have to find ways to build green within the traditional budget. The goal is to save money down the road on things like maintenance, water and electricity. The fact that USC was able to build Green Quad at the same cost as traditional design shows that green does not have to be more expensive.

“Building green is more than bricks and mortar at USC. These buildings are teaching tools,” explained Koman.  “In our residence halls, we meter energy consumption down each room, so students can understand what they consume.”


Sustainable Carolina

Sustainability is becoming a life style and a basic philosophy of sustaining our environment in order to preserve it for our children and grandchildren. Institutions of sustainability do not limit themselves to environmental issues only, as they prepare students to live a more sustainable life and empower students to implement plans and take control of projects.

“The vital role of Sustainable Carolina is to explore and implement the social, economic, and environmental changes required to create a sustainable campus and community.  Our strength has been our ability to promote collaborative relationships among students, staff, faculty, and community members.” Said Dr. David Whiteman, Principal of Green Quad and Director of the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures.

It is important for USC to develop productive partnerships between schools and industry to understand and address global issues, and to train effective and knowledgeable leaders. President Pastides regularly promotes the concept of merging the economics, environment, energy and ethics into the academics and research to solve problems faced across the state.

Masters in Earth and Environmental Management (MEERM) program has been working towards this concept for years.  Recently the program has added a Capstone track in lieu of the traditional thesis.  Capstone students participate in year-long internships where they are required to take on and solve an existing problem for clients in the state.  This not only provides real life experience for the students, but helps USC engage the community in supporting sustainability related initiatives.

As there were already numerous departments working on sustainability, it became the next step to have an umbrella organization to coordinate the efforts.  Sustainable Carolina was formed, and assists the Office of Sustainability, Green Quad and the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures. It also includes student organizations such as Net Impact, SAGE, Student Government, and Residence Hall Association.  This interconnected structure allows them to work together and make more progress.

The sustainability goals of the Campus are coordinated and guided by the Office of Sustainability, which office uses the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System).  Each Semester, the staff creates specialized project teams that work toward implementing and tracking progress of these goals.

This year sustainability peaked with over 50 events including Earth Week which is a week-long celebration surrounding Earth Day. Hundreds of students participate in these educational events and learn not only about sustainability but also practice important leadership skills that they will be able to use in their jobs in the future.

Great Power Race

As a result of Sustainable Carolina’s great events and outstanding students,  USC became ranked no.1 in the United States together with Berkeley and fifth in the world defeating thousands of American and international universities in last year’s competition. Sustainable Carolina competed with its 21 projects teams and with over 100 projects and events against 980 other teams.  Two volunteer students named Myoung Su Ko and Anjana Sukumar helped lead USC to no. 1 by signing up for the competition and reporting the projects and events.

This race shows students and community members that climate change is not “too big” of an issue for one person. The Great Power Race makes clear that individuals do not have to wait for the government to make the big decisions and tell us the solutions; each student or community member can change the world today by working together and do what they can to build a sustainable community.



RecycleMania is an 8-week competition among over 500 college and university campuses across the US and Canada to collect the most recyclables.  From February 7 until April 1, students compete in “RecycleMania” events including phone book throwing, plastic bottle recycling and aluminum can stacking competitions.

Margaret Bounds, the project coordinator of the event was still proud even though USC fell short of no. 1 for this event, “We recycled 7.31 pounds per person and a total of 229,574 pounds over the 8 weeks of competition and finished 84th in the Gorilla Prize.  The event gives us an opportunity to educate the entire student population about recycling and its fun to play against our rivalry, Clemson!”

The last major event of the Spring Semester is Earth Week, which is a one-week celebration starting April 18 through April 22.   It kicked off on Monday with a presentation by Dr. Kevin Elliott, an award-winning teacher and associate professor of philosophy, on his new book entitled “Is a Little Pollution Good For You?” This book has been described as “a must read for researchers, scholars, and students who are interested in the relationship between science, industry, and society.”

The day before Earth Day, Thursday, April 21st, Professor Rudy Mancke will lead a nature walk, with those interested meeting at McKissick Museum at 1pm.   Friday is Discovery Day, and it is open to the general public.  There will be student projects, theatre, arts, & music presentations throughout the day at Russell House Theatre, and it concludes with a reception and awards ceremony starting at 3:30pm.   The rest of the week, there will be many activities including freecycling, crafts and seeds, and a green facts trivia game where students will ask sustainability questions and award prizes.


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