Tag Archives: sustainability

Greener than the Grinch

If all you want for Christmas is a healthy, green planet, then USF is the place for you.

Indeed, throughout the year, USF’s Environmental Safety Office (ESO), an office within the Department of Facilities Management, works to provide guidance, service, education, and outreach in all areas environmental to create a safer and more eco-friendly university campus and community. Through full-fledged programs, like USF Recycles; student-to-student outreach, like Ecoeducation; and paid on-campus job positions, like the Neighborhood Clean Up Crew — ESO helps the University comply and supersede procedural requirements of city, state, and federal law, while educating (and perhaps, inspiring) students and members of the community to make a more conscious effort to take care of the planet.

Of course, the urge to splurge might override your steam for green this holiday and exam week season; so if you find yourself lost amidst the wrapping paper, egg nog, coffee cups and “Blue Books,” be sure to thank the fine folks from ESO, who are working to keep your wrappers and reciepts off of the streets and into the proper recycling bins!

USF Students Help Keep Campus Clean and Green Through on Campus Jobs


Don’t try tossing your soda can into the compost! Yayun Lu, a junior marketing and advertising major, works in the cafeteria as an eco-educator and will help inform students on the proper way to recycle. (Photo by Allison Fazio)

Don’t try tossing your soda can into the compost! Yayun Lu, a junior marketing and advertising major, works in the cafeteria as an eco-educator and will help inform students on the proper way to recycle. (Photo by Allison Fazio)

Yayun Lu, Eco-Educator    Yayun Lu, a junior marketing and advertising double major, helps promote sustainability in USF’s dining hall with her on-campus job as eco-educator. Lu spends her shifts monitoring waste bins and educating her peers about proper recycling during peak lunch and dinner hours.As eco-educator, Lu is responsible for guiding students on how to dispose of their leftovers and waste products in the correct bins: either compost, recycling, or landfill. Though she doesn’t have to intervene much, she said, a common mistake of caf diners is recycling greasy or oily take-out boxes, when they should be composted.

USF Recycles has teamed up with Bon Appetit, USF’s meal provider, to ensure that dining hall compost will benefit the University, according to the USF Recycle’s online recycling brochure. After being sent to a compost facility in Vacaville, CA, the compost returns to campus as landscape grounding and fertilizer for the Community Garden.

Katoa Ahau, freshman exercise and sports science major, dons his collection gear and protective equipment before every shift, as a part of USF’s meighborhood clean-up crew. (Photo by Allison Fazio)

Katoa Ahau, freshman exercise and sports science major, dons his collection gear and protective equipment before every shift, as a part of USF’s meighborhood clean-up crew. (Photo by Allison Fazio)

Katoa Ahau, The NeighborhoodClean Up Crew

A dual season athlete with a full load of courses, freshman Katoa Ahau, an exercise and sports science major, applied for an on-campus job with ESO’s neighborhood clean up crew (NCU) to take advantage of the flexible hours and to learn more about the environment.

As a student worker for NCU, Ahau spends his shifts collecting and sorting litter from the residential streets within and surrounding campus borders. The black canvas litter bag he carries along with him is divided in three parts (compost, recycling, and landfill) to ensure all items are disposed of correctly.

In addition to keeping USF’s neighborhood clean, Ahau has also mastered the do’s and dont’s of recycling. “I see styrofoam around, and I used to think it was compostable — but it’s definitely not. It’s not even recyclable yet,” he said.

According to Ahau, most of what he finds while picking up the streets between upper and lower campus are products from the cafeteria.

Inform yourself on how to recycle through USF Recycle’s online recycling brochure.


Environmental Justice and Outdoors Club: For Tree Huggers and Hikers Alike

The Environmental Justice and Outdoors Club (EJOC) is a student-led organization at USF that combines activism and hobby. The club’s mission is not only to bring forth environmental justice, but also to promote outdoor activity, volunteer work, and community involvement.

The club currently has around 50 members.

EJOC meets once a week to discuss important environmental issues, and to plan for future volunteer opportunities, weekend activities, and the ever-popular, once-a-semester camping trip.

According to student co-president Andy Cole, a fine arts major, the club strives to bring environmental awareness and education to students and faculty to encourage a more eco-friendly university community. Originally just the “Outdoors Club,” “Environmental Justice” was added at the beginning of last year due to a gaining interest within the club and around campus in discussions like fossil fuels, climate change, and even animal rights.

Last year, the club held a screening of the documentary “Chasing Ice” (2012) to educate students about the effects of climate change.

Some members of EJOC worked closely with Fossil Free USF to draft and deliver a letter of petition to University President, the Reverend Stephen A. Privett, and University CFO, Charles Cross, requesting that the university divest from all companies burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. The petition is part of a national campaign to reduce global warming, and currently has 241 USF signatures.

This year, EJOC will host a screening for “The Cove” (2009), which documents the mass fishing of dolphins in the coves of Taiji, Japan and investigates how such fishing affects dolphins and humans, alike.

Co-presidents Cole and Rachel Palmer, senior, have several events planned for the school year, whether they be on campus, in the city, or even in the woods. In the current semester so far, EJOC has hosted a BBQ bonding session in Golden Gate Park and a weekend hike at Land’s End. Cole said students can expect to see more activities in the upcoming months, such as volunteer trips in the city, biking and running groups, and even a “tech detox” hangout, where students tuck away their cell phones in order to create a more intimate and organic bonding experience.

EJOC also works with a San Francisco nonprofit organization called The Garden Project to help plant in a community garden located on Divisadero Street and Eddy Street. Palmer, a nursing major, explains: “We are going to work with the new community garden to promote sustainable living regardless of class. We are hoping to develop a high-yield garden that offers fresh, organic food to the low-income housing residents nearby.”

The Garden Project is one of several volunteer opportunities in which the club takes part. Students who wish to attend the club’s three-day camping trip are encouraged to volunteer at least twice during the semester.

EOJC also aims to make a close-knit and involved community, Cole said. By allowing students to interact and experience nature firsthand, the members of EOJC can directly enjoy what they are helping to preserve — while having fun and growing closer as well. “USF is not a huge campus, so it allows us to take the opportunity to create a really intimate community with people who have a mutual interest in the environment and the outdoors,” Cole said.

Club member Sofia Marbach, a freshman international studies major, joined EJOC after moving to San Francisco from her hometown in Hood River, Oregon. “I do a lot of hiking and backpacking back home, and I didn’t want to lose that connection when moving to an urban area like San Francisco,” Marbach said. “I joined the club looking for an opportunity to camp and hike, but also [to] involve myself in service projects like beach clean-ups and helping Fossil Free USF reach success in getting our school to divest completely from fossil fuels.”

Reta Flynt, a sophomore psychology major, is interested in environmental sustainability and joined the club to get involved with local sustainability events. “I love agriculture too, so I want to be more involved with community gardens and connect with people with similar interests.”

Freshman psychology major William Shaw explained why he joined the club: “[Because] I was born a tree hugger!” Shaw hopes to utilize EJOC as a way of bettering the world. “I hope we can make some actual change in our community to benefit our environment, because without it we’d be dead!” he exclaimed.

Social Justice Doesn’t Just Apply to Students:

The Campaign for USF’s Divestment From Fossil Fuels


The crowning jewel of USF’s sustainability initiatives is the successful diversion of much of our landfill-bound waste to recycling and composting facilities. Yet some environmentally conscious students aren’t just concerned about where our waste products are going — they’re taking a closer look at where the university’s money is going.

This semester, seven USF students initiated a campaign to convince the university to freeze investments in the fossil fuel industry and to divest from fossil fuels entirely within five years. The USF Divestment Campaign, also called Fossil Free USF, is part of a global organization called 350.org, which aims to build a grassroots movement combating climate change. Divestment, the opposite of investment, simply means to get rid of stocks or bonds for financial, ethical or political reasons.

The fossil fuel industry, while very lucrative, can be viewed as unethical due to its great contribution to climate change through the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The entire process of extracting and using fossil fuels, meaning petroleum, coal and natural gas, causes the release of these gases, along with other environmental hazards. These gases are the main human cause of climate change – the rising global temperature that dramatically changes weather patterns, creates superstorms and causes an ominous rise in the sea level.

“Fossil fuels are pretty much causing the climate crisis. Especially our generation, we’re going to be faced with what could be insurmountable challenges, but if we address them properly and address them now, and swiftly, they won’t be insurmountable. That’s the motivation for this [campaign],” senior campaign member member Ashlyn Ruga said.

The students of Fossil Free USF requested information from the financial office on the whereabouts of the university’s endowment and received a document detailing the investments. From that, campaign member senior Steven Liberman determined that USF is indeed invested in the fossil fuels industry. Continued research will hopefully reveal just how much money USF has invested in these companies.

“We don’t know how much each school [with a divestment campaign] has invested in the fossil fuels industry, but this, like other divestment campaigns, brings awareness to the issue. People start asking ‘Why would we divest?’” Ruga explained.

The campaign promotes the idea that it is wrong to cause harm to the environment, and it also wrong to profit from the destruction. The Fossil Free Campaign questions the ethics of investing in fossil fuels, an industry that contributes hugely to the climate crisis through emissions and has been known to cause environmental harm to communities near extraction sites.

Stemming from the “Do the Math” tour, which is a collaboration of 350.org and environmentalist/author Bill McKibben on the numbers of climate change, the campaign to divest from fossil fuesl has spread to universities all over the continent. Five different campaigns have successfully convinced their universities to divest. USF’s campaign is allied with Divest the West, a network connecting all of the West Coast schools working toward the same goal.

Ruga and six other students formed USF’s core group earlier this semester, and have been gathering petition signatures for the past month. They are working on a proposal for the USF Board of Trustees, and have connected with the incoming ASUSF vice president of sustainability in order to work toward passing a resolution through Senate. They have contacted President Stephen Privett, S.J. and the Chief Financial Officer Charlie Cross about the issue directly.

“We are still trying to build support for it, but I think in the month that we’ve been working on it, we’ve made substantial progress,” Ruga said. “They [the administrators] haven’t indicated that they are just going to squash it.”

Privett addressed the divestment issue in the most recent issue of USFtv’s Ask the President. “My immediate response was…I don’t think this is going to get a lot of traction,” he said. Privett went on to explain that it is difficult to know how much and what kind of impact divesting in a company will make, particularly when companies have such a vast array of different outlets with varying degrees of moral integrity. “It’s hard to isolate a single enterprise. If you are investing in a large company, how do you differentiate amongst its multiple outlets?”

The Fossil Free USF students are passionate about the issue for clear environmental reasons, but see the fossil fuel dependence as a social justice concern as well. “It’s a very moral issue. The fossil fuel process…disproportionately affects marginalized communities throughout the world. So the preferential option for the poor that the Jesuits adhere to is that you have to help the poor and marginalized communities. It’s extra important that because that is our mission [at USF], we pay attention to this cause,” Ruga said.

Privett also put the issue into a social justice context, but came to a rather different conclusion. “Often times these enterprises are jobs for local people, and local people should have more of a voice of what happens,” he said. “If we divest from a company, are we going to put 500 people out of a job? What are the consequences?”

The group’s goal by the end of the semester is to deliver the petition to Privett and Cross, and to have the issue under consideration. With the campaign only a month old, getting approval by early May might be overly idealistic. The campaign has had one event, a photo petition when the Board of Trustees met on campus where students stopped by to learn about the issue and take a photo with a sign showing their support. “People were really excited about it. We put it on Facebook and got a lot of ‘likes’ — people were really buzzed,” Ruga said.

More activity will occur from the group on May 2, a Day of Action when the Divest the West schools are going to gather and welcome their guest, environmentalist Bill McKibben, who has written on the effects of global warming.

Before the big Day of Action, Fossil Free USF will be meeting with an organizer from 350.org for a workshop on Friday, April 25 from 1:45-4:30 in McLaren. The workshop is open to any student who wants to help determine the direction of the divestment campaign. “There is very little activism on campus, if any, especially not with something this big,” Ruga said.

While USF’s campaign will likely go unresolved this semester, the push for divestment could be seen growing over the next year. The current campaigners hope to find students to fill their roles. As more universities are pressured into divestment, it becomes likely that USF will be forced to address their student’s growing concern over the ethicality of where our endowment money is allocated.

Put Your Ethics Where Your Mouth Is

Shop in Bulk and Source Locally

Packaging takes up a huge portion of the landfills on our planet and by buying in bulk, you can cut down on unnecessary waste.
Rainbow Market in the Mission has a great selection of bulk products and even gives you ten cents off your total for every bag you reuse or container you bring in to use. Whole Foods also has a great bulk section that offers a variety of organic (and sometimes even local) products.
As far as your produce goes, shopping at local Farmer’s Markets helps to cut down on carbon emissions because your fruit and vegetables don’t have to be shipped from halfway across the world.
Often times, the farms are between 20 and 100 miles away and offer organic and sustainable produce. They offer seasonal produce, and the vendors at the markets are happy to tell you where the produce comes from, how it was grown and whether or not pesticides were used in the farming process.

One Word: Vegan

I’m not telling you to give up your meat and dairy completely, but at least cut back on the amount of animal products and byproducts that you consume. One healthy, adult cow produces, on average, one hundred pounds of waste a day. This is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emission and by cutting back on meat and dairy, you can help to eliminate some of these effects.
If you must eat meat or dairy, make sure that it is organic, free range, and hormone free. Straus Creamery is an excellent local dairy farm and all of their products are sustainable and good for the environment. Also, make sure to get cage-free, hormone free eggs. The couple more dollars you spend on these items will be worth it in the long run.

Help Out in the Community Garden

Did you know that USF has a community garden right next to the ED building? If you come and help out on a Friday workday between 12P- 4P, you can not only walk away with some fresh greens, but you can also learn how to plant, grow, and harvest your own produce based on what is in season.
You can also use these skills to plant a window box with fresh herbs or take it to the next step and start planting your own fresh veggies!

Interested in Learning to Live Off the Land? Take A USF Summer Course

Green Media will be taught this summer by David Silver as a media production course. This year, it is being taught from July 24th- August 7th at Buck Mountain Experimental Station, owned and operated by Professor Melinda Stone.
If you need a cell phone and computer to get through your day, this course isn’t for you. Nestled in Northern California, the station is removed from the hustle of everyday life and perfect for those wanting to have a hands on experience.
In this intensive class, you will walk away knowing how to live off the land and how to produce your own food. While it is a media studies course, it is hosted by USF’s environmental studies department. There are very limited spots so make sure to sign up!

Eat At Restaurants That Use Sustainable, Local, and Organic Ingredients

I love eating out, but sometimes it can be discouraging to think about where your food comes from. Many restaurants in the city are now priding themselves on offering sustainable, local, and seasonal ingredients. Try out these sustainable restaurants:

Tataki Sushi
(California between Divisadero and Broderick)
Sorry to break it to my raw fish lovers, but a lot of sushi is extremely unsustainable and is harming the environment. Tataki Sushi is a sustainable sushi restaurant that was introduced to me by a colleague. It is not only delicious, but it makes sure that the dish offered is viable for the planet.
Favorites on the menu: extinguisher roll ($13), sashimi taster- 6 pieces of the chef’s selection ($12), tuna poke ($11)

Plant Cafe Organic
(Various Locations)
The Plant Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. I find myself here a couple times a month. Not only is their food fresh, but their name says it all. The Plant Cafe prides themselves on using organic and sustainable ingredients and is a great restaurant for vegans. Their poultry and seafood is free of hormones, antibiotics and is oftentimes sources locally.
Favorites on the menu: quinoa bowl ($10.25), fish tacos($12.5), tuscan chicken panini ($10.50), skin refresher juice with cucumber, apple, strawberry and watermelon ($5.75 for 12oz.)

Where Are the Vegans?

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I’d like to think that we’re on the right track when it comes to sustainability. San Francisco offers its residents boundless opportunities to think green and act responsibly — I won’t deny that. But lately I’ve noticed a pretty disturbing anti-environment mindset when it comes to one issue in particular. The dismissal of vegan ethics has got me a little irritated, truly bewildered, and totally sad for the future of the Earth. It’s really not possible to talk about sustainability without considering the amount of damage the meat and dairy industries do to our precious planet. When factory farming accounts for 65% of nitrous oxide emissions (which is the greenhouse gas with the most global warming potential by far, according to the Humane Society) among many other environmental atrocities, it just doesn’t make sense to eat a cheeseburger and call yourself eco-friendly.
I’ve heard all the justifications for animal byproducts in the book. People usually tell me they could never give up insert-animal-product-here, that they don’t like vegan food, or that being vegan is just another hipster pretension. But rest assured, there’s a solution for all of these suspicions. Going vegan is not only entirely possible but endlessly beneficial – for the environment and yourself, too!

We all have our vices. Before veganism I was a self-proclaimed Nutella fiend, and I’ve known people to have pretty serious relationships with cheese. But I firmly believe that for every meat-filled or dairy-laden addiction there’s a veganized version to take its place.

I’m not kidding, have you tasted pizza made with Daiya cheese? Or SF-based Wholesome Bakery’s freshly baked cookies? You’d be amazed at how innovative vegan companies are getting – they’re churning out delicious substitutions for non-vegan favorites left and right. So you might as well opt for the less destructive version, right?

There’s a significant amount of eateries in the city that cater to vegan and environmental ethics – try Gracias Madre on Mission and 18th for the best vegan Mexican food ever, Source in SOMA for amazing vegan macaroni and cheese, and head to the Ferry Building for Pepples’ vegan donuts. You’d never be able to tell the difference, and contributing to vegan-owned establishments helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserves water and land in astounding numbers.

Because our society projects meat, egg, and dairy consumption as a norm, it’s rare that we reevaluate our intake at all. But the facts are there (check out www.veganoutreach.com/whyvegan for more information). What we really need is a change in perspective.

It may seem trendy to adopt a vegan diet, but when there’s so much at stake and there’s concrete evidence for the meat and dairy industries’ environmental destruction, it’s far more than a hipster fad or fashionable diet. The vegan ethic promotes compassion over egotism, awareness over blindness. Going vegan is an act of (dare I say?) social justice, environmental consciousness, and protest against destructive and normative ideals.

Waste is Baah-d! 5th Annual Earth Day Event Draws Herds of Students…and Goats

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Pedal powered smoothies, live music, and goats brought waves of students to Gleeson Plaza this Thursday, all part of an event to promote a greener lifestyle in honor of Earth Day.

Students roamed the tables finding free organic food, a used clothing sale and a free bike repair stand.
Among the numerous Earth Day information tables, a small pen of goats caught the attention of those not used to the annual attraction. “To let goats graze your grass is an environmentally friendly way of getting rid of weeds in your land,” said Trevor Rose, from City Grazing. The San Francisco company provides the goats as an alternative to eliminating weeds without the use of toxins or chemicals. “Goat dung also provides great natural fertilizer,” said Rose.

Food Runners, a San Francisco nonprofit that delivers food to the hungry, and the Wigg Party, an eco-centric community group supporting neighborhoods around the Wiggle bike route, were among city organizations promoting greener living options.

Several USF organizations also promoted eco-friendly initiatives. The Information Technology Services’ (ITS) Green Team, for example, provided power saving tips.

“There are little things that you can do to save energy, like turning off all your electronic devices, not only your monitor when you leave your room,” said ITS staff member Beth Forest. “Some people think that power saving activities are something too small, they won’t make a difference. But when you think about the potential of thousands of people doing it, then it becomes something meaningful,” Forest said.

The student organization, Outdoors Club, sold reusable water bottles and encouraged their peers to sign a petition requesting that USF stop selling bottled water.

“Bottled water is very dangerous to the environment,” said Ashlyn Ruga, a psychology and international studies student. “They usually are not recycled and end up in the ocean, or they can be sent to countries like India, where communities are forced to deal with waste they didn’t produce.”

The Protecting Animal Welfare Through Service (PAWS) organization encouraged others to take action in order to improve the livelihood of animals, such as visiting adoption centers for abandoned pets.
PAWS’ President Franceska Hinkamp said, “Tie your plastic bags if you must throw them away, so that animals don’t get entangled in it.”

The Rock the Bike club provided electricity for the musician’s instruments through what the organization’s founder, Paul Freedman, calls “clean pedal power.”

Bicycling to generate power for the student bands Ghost Town Refugees, Bhava, and Nik Pilgrim, Freedman said, “Music should be the place where we do the right thing and put our right foot forward.” He added that by his estimate, pedaling saved 200 to 300 watts of energy.

The fusion of community and campus support for the Earth Day event highlighted the ways in which green choices could be made on campus, and have a larger impact on the city.

“The greatest thing about the event is that all the issues are being approached at a local level,” said Sara Prendergast, USF alumna and Fromm Hall resident minister. “It is exactly what practicing what you preach means. It’s refreshing to see.”