USC has been named the winner of the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge for the 2021 football season, the university's third victory in the league-wide competition that began in 2016 to divert waste at home football games from landfills to recycling or composting.
The Trojans and the Coliseum also won in the 2016 and 2017 football seasons. The 3 wins are more than any league school has captured during football season.
The competition, presented by Eco-Products, is also conducted during men's basketball season. Pac-12 schools select a football and men's basketball game and compete to see which university diverts the most waste from landfills, as well as which school used the most innovative methods to expand reach and impact of sustainability education efforts.
In the 2021 season, USC achieved a 90% diversion rate for its Zero Waste Game against Oregon State, with more than 5 tons in recycling and more than 3 tons in compost.
USC also established its first "Green Week" leading up to its 2021 Zero Waste Game, highlighting campus sustainability efforts all week long through events held by student organizations, researchers, staff and members of the communications team. USC President Dr. Carol L. Folt was included in the campaign, with a special in-stadium video message prior to the Zero Waste Game that was also distributed across university and athletics digital and social media platforms, as well as additional video materials featuring student-athletes. USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn welcomed the school's first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer on the field during game.
There also was a Zero Waste Sustainability booth at Fan Fest outside the Coliseum at the Oregon State game, which included sustainability-related games, Go Green information and fun giveaways, as well as the opportunity to take a photo with Traveler.
To engage student-athletes, USC partnered with Trojan quarter Mo Hasan to use "Second Spoon," a nonprofit organization he founded that provides surplus food to individuals in need, to collect and distribute approximately 400 pounds of surplus food from the 2021 Zero Waste Game.
"Sustainability is a central focus at USC, and Dr. Folt's vision has set ambitious targets, including phasing out single-use nonessential plastics, attaining a zero waste campus, and achieving carbon neutrality," said Bohn. "Our athletics program has partnered with the university's sustainability department on multiple initiatives, and we are excited to continue doing our part to advance the university's mission in this critical area. This recognition from the Pac-12 is further validation of our ongoing efforts, and I commend everyone at USC who contributed to us winning this honor."
"Zero waste" is defined as diverting 90 percent or more of waste materials from the landfill or incinerator, through recycling, composting or other repurposing.
Since launching its Zero Waste program in 2012, the Coliseum has diverted more than 1,000 tons of waste from landfill. The Coliseum hand sorts every piece of gameday waste to ensure it ends up in the proper waste stream.
USC Athletics has worked closed with USC Sustainability on various sustainability efforts.
For instance, some 1,500 solar energy modules were installed on the Galen Center roof to supply about 15% of the arena's electricity, making it the biggest solar power project at USC. Additionally, more than 3,000 LED light bulbs were put into the arena and a "pony chiller" was added to its cooling units. Those energy conservation measures help reduce USC's greenhouse gas emissions.