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Care For Our Common Home

The University of San Diego Celebrates One of Its Core Values

In his 2015 papal encyclical, known as Laudato Si’, Pope Francis called for urgent action to support the poor and the vulnerable who are disproportionately impacted by global environmental problems such as climate change, pollution, access to clean water and loss of biodiversity. Care for Our Common Home is one of USD’s six core values.

The message of Laudato Si’ frames our care for creation. At USD, we acknowledge our location on Kumeyaay land and we embrace our singular placement on the San Diego-Tijuana border, a uniquely diverse — both culturally and biologically — environment. As an anchor institution, we build reciprocal partnerships with our Indigenous, local, national and global partners and we integrate environmentally, economically and socially responsible practices.

Sustainability is baked into the University of San Diego’s DNA, rooted in its mission and its commitment to Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home. It is a focus on a greener future, with the campus looking to set the standard for sustainability efforts in the region.

“The university has a very aggressive goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035,” said Director of Sustainability John Alejandro. “USD uses quite a bit of electricity, water and natural gas in its daily operations. First and foremost, our goal is to reduce the consumption of all of these, which in turn will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately help the environment.”

Environmental efforts are underway throughout the university, with projects having widespread impact, from working on air conditioning units to generating renewable energy onsite to be directly supplied to the campus.

“These projects are very important,” said Alejandro. “Oftentimes a lot of the work is behind the scenes that can go unnoticed. But then there are the bigger projects, like installing new solar arrays on campus, that are highly visible. The university is very committed to not only reducing energy use, but also creating new ways of generating power.”

Alejandro’s passion for sustainability is clear, and he loves connecting with members of the community to discuss efforts to achieve USD’s green goals. From working on a new solar project that’s set to begin in the summer, to addressing food waste and composting with his team, Alejandro sees firsthand how sustainability across campus impacts everyone. 

“It really does touch virtually every aspect of a person’s life,” he said. “How we live our lives helps to determine whether or not we’ll have a positive impact in making the planet a better place.”

For him, it’s all about applying an environmental lens to everything, which enables one person’s actions to have a greater impact.

“If people live their lives through a lens of sustainability, through a green lens so to speak, they can really see how they can make changes in virtually everything they do,” he said. “One person’s efforts, when combined with other people’s efforts, can lead to great change.”

It is this great change that Alejandro sees as a defining part of USD’s future, a future that takes sustainability practices from the campus and helps in building environmental stewardship on a larger scale.

“Our efforts should not only take care of USD’s environment, but also that of the surrounding community and the greater San Diego region,” he said. “In doing so, USD can demonstrate to the entire Southern California region how working together can achieve all of our environmental goals.”

— Story by USD alumna Allyson Meyer ’16 (BA), ’21 (MBA)

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