Jessica Sara Cohen is the Waste and Recycling Administrator at USC. Before she began work at USC, she was a student leader on the university’s Sustainability Steering Committee.
Tell us about your project to reduce waste.
I manage a student-run program that focuses on educating tailgaters about recycling and compost at tailgates on USC football game days. This program started about seven years ago. On average, USC diverts 52% of our waste annually with a goal of 75% by 2020. Our Tailgate Waste Diversion Program reaches an estimated 40,000-65,000 fans via roughly 80 student-peer educators per tailgate.
What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?
I’ve been extremely passionate about the environment since high school, when my friend convinced me to go to an environmental club meeting with her. I always loved the outdoors, but once I met the faculty advisor, Lorna Morris — and felt her passion and enthusiasm — I knew it was contagious and that it would become a long-lasting passion for me as well.
What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?
The greatest barrier I face in my work is fostering cultural change. It’s easy to place infrastructure, but much more difficult to ensure that it’s properly used. One thing that would make my job easier is having a cultural expectation on campus around sustainability issues; students don’t seem to realize that their demands really do make a difference on campus, even if changes don’t come about as quickly as they’d like.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
My first wish would be that science is communicated more effectively and accepted by society at large. My second wish is that the idea of a triple bottom line becomes the standard business practice. Lastly, with my final wish, I wish that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I’ll never have to wait in a line again.
Thursday, March 23rd, 2017
We asked Path to Positive: Los Angeles members, What inspires you to take action on climate change solutions in Los Angeles? Here are some of their answers.
John Beynon, United Nations Association and Whittier Area Environment Coalition
“Information coming out of UN Panel on Climate Change.”
Stuart Cooley, Santa Monica College
“Seeing the positive changes to date: cleaner air, electric vehicle uptake, coal company bankruptcies, and seeing the interest among the decision-makers and political leaders.”
David Eisenman, UCLA
“I am inspired by the growing momentum for action across so many sectors and fields!”
Cinzia Fissore, Whittier College
“Understanding the relationship between soils and climate inspires me and motivates me. With my teaching and research work, I am very much invested in the discourse concerning the role of soils in mitigating climate change while continuing to secure food and resources for a growing population. LA, and California more broadly, is a hotspot for carbon consumptions and emissions. While this can be interpreted as a challenge, in reality LA and California have the potential to develop effective strategies to mitigate climate change.”
“L.A.’s need to capture and use our stormwater in this “new normal” of drought boom or bust (mostly bust) cycles. My other big concern is the urban heat island effect, and cooling measures we can take to create a cooler ground temperature in our dense areas.”
Loraine Lundquist, California State University Northridge
“Protecting my children’s future.”
Daniel Mabe, American Green Zone Alliance
“When setting out to take action on air, land, and noise pollution, I learned how my mission could be a significant contributor to fighting climate change. It is really about preserving the planet for future generations.”
Keith Malone, California Fuel Cell Partnership
“A shared responsibility to my family, community and the world. The idea that I can contribute to reducing the effects of or preventing climate change by my individual actions and my contributions to larger actions.”
“Knowing that younger generations are more aware, educated and active in their lives, actions, lifestyles — and teaching older generations that global warming/climate change is real and needs to be addressed now.”
Ron Milam, Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative
“It’s linked to so many issues I care about — transportation, land use, housing, equity and health.”
Duane Muller, The Playa Group, LLC
“Living in LA, I have great affinity for our region’s breathtaking coastline and magnificent mountains and would like to maintain them for future generations, but I feel like we are running out of time. While I love the cultural vibrancy that comes from megacities, I also recognize the need to balance our population growth with sustainable solutions. For me, LA represents a unique challenge to preserve the region’s natural beauty, while also managing increased population pressures — whether from transportation, housing, energy and/or water use.”
Nancy Pearlman, Trustee, Los Angeles Community College District
“As an environmentalist for over 46 years, I recognize that climate change is a serious problem affecting all other ecological issues. We must deal with overpopulation, wildlife extinction, pollution and toxics in our environment but climate change must be dealt with to create a green, healthy environment and economy.”
Casandra Rauser, UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge
“Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse and vibrant city and I’m inspired by what this region has to offer me and my children so much that I want to ensure its resiliency and sustainability for future generations. I’m inspired by the forward-thinking of our policy makers both statewide and locally, and want to continue the momentum built to create positive change and serve as a model for other cities worldwide in fighting climate change.”
Laura Rosenthal, City of Malibu
“I am trying to preserve a livable earth for my children and all future generations. I am both distressed at the current state of things yet inspired by so many positive initiatives and results that are currently happening.”
David Rosenstein, Intex Solutions
“I love Los Angeles and it is my home. Though I try to be involved in regional, national and international efforts to mitigate climate change, I figure it is worth some time and energy to do the same in my backyard. As things go to ‘hell in a hand-basket,’ as the saying goes, I want to feel I have done as much as I can to prevent or reduce the harm.”
Allen Schuman, Green Business Council of Southern California
“As a native Angeleno, I have seen how Los Angeles has grown over the years with little or no control regarding our growth, the lack of use of public transportation system, our electrical grid, etc. I strongly feel that through our everyday actions we are all having a direct impact on climate change here in Los Angeles. No man is an island onto himself.”
Jim Stewart, PhD Sierra Club, Ocean Foresters
Sr. Mary Joseph Suter, Daughters of Charity
“I have been reading Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and Pope Francis on the environment.”
Janet Valenzuela, USFS
“What inspires me to take action is having an upbringing in an urban city with parents with an agricultural background who have raised me to be concerned with all the changes that are happening in our climate and the systems that depend on it.”
“I’ve always been concerned about the environment, but I recently watched an episode of Chelsea Handler’s show on Netflix about climate change and it downright terrified me. I had no idea America was running out of resources as quickly as it is and, at the rate we’re going, several cities will be under water by 2030. That is less that 15 years away, and I had no idea about it. Which leads me to believe that a lot of people have no idea about some of these things. Thus I felt compelled to join a movement and get the word out and advocate for change.”
Thomas Wong, President, San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District
“Knowing that our actions, or inaction, today will have impacts on the world and community we live in 30, 40, 50 years down the line.”
Wednesday, February 15th, 2017