This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

New sustainability coordinator looks ahead to year's green projects

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The sustainability pipeline at UCLA is bulging with new initiatives, from the campus's first-ever Climate Action Plan to student-run delivery of locally farmed produce on a weekly basis.
 
UCLA Sustainability Coordinator Nurit Katz.
UCLA Sustainability Coordinator Nurit Katz.
Sustainability leaders across campus have predicted that 2008-09 will be a busy year for green activity, but lamented that no one could devote their full attention to it – until now. After years of faculty and staff piling environmental goals on top of their full-time jobs, UCLA now has its first sustainability coordinator, Nurit Katz.
Katz is "a perfect fit," said Cully Nordby, chair of the campus' Sustainability Committee and academic director of the Institute of the Environment.

"This will be a landmark year for sustainability at UCLA, and having Nurit as coordinator is a big part of that. She'll be dedicated to focusing on sustainability and making connections across campus fulltime," Nordby said. "She's incredibly knowledgeable about sustainability and UCLA, and incredibly connected."

It's hard to tailor a rsum to a job that didn't exist until this year, but somehow Katz did. She has both business savvy and green credibility, having graduated last spring with an M.B.A. and a Masters of Public Policy from UCLA, along with a certificate for completing the four-course "Leaders in Sustainability" program – a program she also helped develop. A former president of the Graduate Student Association, she also founded UCLA's Sustainable Resource Center and helped write the sustainability-oriented curriculum of a social entrepreneurship course at the Anderson School of Management.

"There's a lot happening in sustainability, and there are a lot of people working on it, but most of them also have full-time jobs," said Katz, who became sustainability coordinator on Nov. 3. "I'm really passionate about sustainability and especially about UCLA. UCLA is in a position to be a leader in sustainability and set an example, both in our operations and academics."

Katz will report to Jack Powazek, the associate vice chancellor for General Services, who noted the proliferation of green projects on campus.

"We have a number of initiatives, and what we were looking for and found in Nurit is someone who had the background to track all of these initiatives and find the synergies where they can work together," Powazek said. "She will coordinate all these programs, communicate goals and do outreach."

One of her early priorities will be finalizing the campus's first-ever Climate Action Plan. The plan is a comprehensive look at what UCLA has done to reduce its carbon footprint, how the university will meet requirements for future greenhouse gas reductions and what the current footprint looks like. Katz will help finalize the plan, which was largely written by a subcommittee of the Sustainability Committee, before it is submitted at the end of the year.

"Her job is not to come up with an energy conservation plan, or to design a green building or set up a recycling program," Powazek said. "It's like that commercial, 'We didn't make the cars, we made them better; we didn't make the paint, we made it better.' Nurit doesn't make the programs, but she will be the catalyst that makes them more systematic and effective."

Here are some of the many ways sustainability is throwing its weight around this year – and just a sampling of the things Katz will keep track of:
  • The environmental science major is one of the fastest-growing majors on campus, and enrollment is increasing both in the major and in the graduate-level Leaders in Sustainability certificate program.
  • Two new sustainability-oriented research centers formed this year: the Center for Corporate Environmental Performance and the Center for Climate Change Solutions.
  • The Sustainable Resource Center began a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, delivering weekly boxes of locally grown produce to CSA members at Weyburn Terrace.
  • On Oct. 23, UCLA Housing Services hired its own full-time sustainability coordinator, Robert Gilbert, who will help coordinate its efforts in dining, catering and in the residence halls.
  • On Nov. 14, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa launched Clean Tech Los Angeles, a UCLA-led consortium promoting the development of a clean-technology sector in Los Angeles.
  • Next year, Katz will use the Climate Action Plan, which focuses on the climate and greenhouse gases, as a baseline for a campuswide sustainability assessment of water use, recycling and more.
  • An ASUCLA committee overseeing the Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), a $4-per-quarter fee that students voted to pay to fund green programs, will hire a coordinator to help decide which environmental proposals involving students get funded by TGIF's anticipated $200,000-plus yearly earnings.
  • On Feb. 5, UCLA will participate in the National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions, which will help spread the word about the new Climate Action Plan.
  • This spring, staff in the Professional Development Program plan to issue an online guide to greening the office. A new events subcommittee of the Sustainability Committee is already developing a guide to greening campus events.
"It's getting really exciting" with all the new hires, programs and plans, Nordby said. "We've essentially gathered the troops, and now we're ready to take all these disparate efforts and bring them together. We've kind of stomped on the metaphorical gas pedal – but it's a metaphorical hybrid vehicle, of course."

Katz will have to get everyone on campus united and involved, Nordby said.

"We have to start a campaign so that everyone understands that this isn't something that a faceless UCLA is doing -- this is all of us," she said. "We all have to turn off lights and use the recycling bins. All of us together need to participate to make this happen."
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