New and Continuing
The United States Green Building Council developed its Leader in Energy and Environemntal Design (LEED) program to push for more sustainable construction of buildings, arenas, homes, and more. LEED emphasizes all three pillars of sustainability: environmental health, thriving local economy, and societal well-being. First, certified buildings use less energy for lighting, heating, and cooling. Improved technology cuts water use, and proper planning and building practices make the construction process as non-destructive as possible. With all of the growth planned for USC in the next decade, we hope to increase awareness of the need for responsible expansion and create the Innovista as a model of modern design.
Recycling and the Capstone Project
It all started with a dive in the dumpsters. We conducted a "waste audit" of USC's Capstone house this past Spring to see just how much recyclable material these students lose to the landfill. When almost 50% could be collected for reuse, the shock was big enough that we had to take on the problem with a focused campaign. We hope to track improvement over time as the residents become more conscious of their waste through education and improved facilities. From Capstone to other dorms, and beyond that, who knows how much we might influence.
Anyone who has worked in the food services realizes the amount of waste dining facilities produce.
We see enormous room for improvement, and have already made progress. Three continuing focuses:
- More local and organically grown food options
- Reduced consumption of styrofoam trays and cups which degrade incredibly slowly
- Useful recycling of food wastes through composting
USC consumes an enormous amount of energy each day. Expansion into the Innovista will create demand both to use and produce more energy on-site. We hope to see USC support experimental energy sources and further the development of renewable sources as a way to permanently adress human needs. The potential for improvements in energy research opportunities, cleaner public transportation, and safe power production is wide open and exciting.
Campus Climate Challenge
SAGE and the School of the Environment are taking the Campus Climate Challenge. The Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) is a campaign sponsored by energyaction.net, and seeks to involve 500 schools in the USA and Canada. Currently, over 100 schools have accepted the Challenge.
The CCC is a long-term campaign to eliminate the pollution that causes global warming. Schools, from small high schools to large public colleges, make a significant impact on the environment because of the resources they consume. Lights, computers, cafeterias, heating/air units and other typical components of a school take generous amounts of energy and water to operate, and people pay those costs with dollars first and later, their own health.
Last year, USC contracted Johnson Controls, a management solutions company, to survey our campus and identify potential energy savings. The contract was a business decision, yet its consequences extend beyond the bottom line. Johnson Controls has already performed lighting and plumbing retrofits in residence halls - they changed out bulbs, ballasts, toilets and showerheads and replaced them with equipment that uses less watts or gallons of water. Click here to read more about the Johnson Controls Performance Contract.
SAGE is building on the work of Johnson Controls as we develop an awareness campaign to show how USC is saving money while we reduce carbon emissions and wasted water. SAGE is also working our University Environmental Advisory Committee to plan the next steps in reducing USC's impact.
Deforestation - Office Max
Forests in the Southeast are being razed every day to produce the paper that is sold in office supply stores like Office Max, Staples and Office Depot. Along with the Dogwood Alliance, SAGE is working locally to encourage Office Max to help protect our forests. On Arbor Day, we will visit the Office Max in 5 Points and ask them to make the following committments:
- Stop purchasing paper from endagered forests, like those in the Southern United States and Canadian Boreal
- Acheive a 30% average in post-consumer recycled content for all paper grades that Office Max sells
- Phase out all sales and stock of 100% virgin paper
- Opt for suppliers that farm wood sustainably instead of converting forests to industrial pine plantations
- Reduce overall paper use for internal operations
National retailers like Office Max can make a substantial difference in forest conservation because their supply chains are designed to support large sales volumes. Once a company's leaders make the decision to make environmental stewardship a priority, the effect will be visible. Currently, Staples and Office Depot have made good on their promises to the Dogwood Alliance, while Office Max is being unresponsive.
You can help us show Office Max the importance of protecting our forests in the following ways:
- Talk to the Office Max managers. You could call them, or you could just wait until you visited the store, but let them know that you are more likely to patronize a store that sells recycled paper.
- Buy recycled paper from a store that sells it, and let the managers there know that you're glad to see the product on their shelves.
- Make sure you recycle your paper and close the loop!
- Reduce your need to buy paper in the first place. Use scratch sheets, share with your roommate or avoid written assignments. (Just kidding, kids - do your work!)
SAGE is working for our generation to see the end of fossil fuels, non-renewable resources and all the injustices that go with them. Last spring, SAGE collected signatures on the Declaration of Independence from Dirty Energy, which is a document signed by students across the nation who wish to let our political and business leaders know that we demand new energy solutions. Four SAGE members delivered the petition to Governor Mark Sanford's office. Click here to read about their experience.
Basically, the Governor's staff member told us that economic conditions in our state force new initiatives like renewable energy plans to compete with existing budget items like education. He cited our governor's conservative spending philosphy and advised us that the governor may consider a program that 1) has a "creative" funding source and 2) does not interfere with industry. The staffer also directed us to the SC Energy Office.
SAGE and the Governor agree on one thing - we should conserve! Resources mean money and vice versa, and we want to tell the Governor that the state which conserves energy is the state which conserves money. Reducing our K-12 schools' need for energy, for instance, will result in a lower energy bill for counties, making their state funds go farther. And we'll clean the air simultaneously! Our governor is always looking for a way to streamline our institutions - write him a letter or give him a call and tell him:
- South Carolina is a beautiful Southern state, from the old Appalachian mountains to the salty lowcountry where Governor Sanford resides
- We can protect our resources by conserving them
- We can save money by protecting our resources, doing simple things like running fleets on alternative fuels or using less light in schools
- We can use the money that we save to attend to some of our state's historic challenges, like education or roads
Also let our legislators hear from you about dirty energy. Want to write or call, but don't know where to start? Contact us and we'll give you some help!