In a Quest for Carbon Neutrality, USF Opens Office of Sustainability and Names its First Director

When Richard Hsu MS ’13 was working on his master’s degree in environmental management at USF, little did he know that he would soon lead the university’s efforts to become carbon neutral.

USF selected Hsu to direct its new Office of Sustainability in August, and he’s leading the charge as USF works to become carbon neutral by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2018, from a 2013 benchmark.

He is also responsible for implementing USF’s climate action plan, which was developed after USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2014, along with presidents from 700 other universities. 

“Sustainability starts with individual action,” Hsu says. “Do your part, become a sustainability champion, and engage your peers to follow your lead. You may be surprised by how convincing and effective you can be.”

Hsu says USF is responding aggressively to California’s drought, and has exceeded the state’s mandated 25 percent reduction in water use. According to data from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commissions, USF has been especially successful reducing the amount of water it uses for irrigation, cutting it a whopping 41 percent between September 2013 and September 2015, and saving 2.7 million gallons of water a year.

USF plans to reduce consumption even more. A multi-year project to install drip irrigation across campus is now complete. USF will also replace the water-thirsty grass on its baseball diamond, which will reduce overall water use by 3 percent, and it installed high-efficiency dishwashers in the dining hall during the summer that will save another 700,000 gallons a year. 

In the residence halls, Hsu is asking students to reduce shower times, turn off the water while shaving and brushing their teeth, and to report any leaks. 

Every bit helps, and Hsu says we’ll probably see more bike racks installed on campus, and more composting and recycling bins as well. He believes too much of USF’s trash is headed for the landfill instead of the recycler.

Hsu comes to USF from Skyline College in San Bruno, where he won the Energy and Sustainability Award from the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.

To trim unruly brush on Lone Mountain, Richard Hsu, sustainability director, hired local free-range goats.