In an ongoing effort to raise awareness about UCLA's ambitious goals to produce zero waste by 2020 and meet other sustainability goals, university environmentalists are tossing around a new idea: eco-orientations and training for employees.
"There are only so many things we can do to make buildings more efficient without help from the people using the buildings," said Nurit Katz, UCLA's sustainability coordinator, at a Staff Assembly Learn-at-Lunch gathering on March 31. "We've gotten a sustainability tour incorporated into the new-student orientation for freshmen. For staff, we would love to incorporate something similar into the department orientation." It hasn't been committed to yet, but "it's something we're thinking about."
Katz led a panel composed of four more campus sustainability leaders in a presentation and a Q&A session for staff. All the panelists agreed that the one of their biggest challenges is simply getting the word out that, as part of UCLA's Climate Action Plan, the university is counting on staff, faculty, students and even visitors to do more for the environment.
"How many of you knew we have a zero-waste goal for 2020?" Katz asked; most hands stayed down. More people would chip in to help if eco-training kept them informed about something as basic as how to help, she said.
"A lot of the problems we see," said Robert Gilbert, Housing and Hospitality Services' sustainability coordinator, "are even as simple as people just not recycling as much as they should."
Peer pressure will be part of the solution, said Roy Champawat, the student union director and sustainability liaison for ASUCLA. "If people feel like throwing away a plastic bottle is not appropriate, like it's a social gaffe, people will stop doing it."
The panel met with a receptive audience, eager to know how they could help out. A new sustainability ambassadors program is in development, and Katz is looking for volunteers to lead their departments in going green. The Anderson School of Management already has a sustainability commission, as does the School of Law and the Department of Recreation. Volunteers for other campus units can sign up online.
The crowd also asked how to make their vendors to join the green game. Sustainability is increasingly part of the scoring process for selecting vendors and contractors, Gilbert noted. April De Stefano, assistant director of the Center for the Study of Women and Staff Assembly representative on the Campus Sustainability Committee, remembered having to make repeated requests for less packing material when she spearheaded greening her center.
"We used to order from Office Max and we'd get something like three pencils in a box this big," she said, stretching her arms apart as far as she could. Many in the audience chuckled knowingly. "It required calling in several times and saying, 'Please don't do that,' but eventually they listened. Call your delivery person, call your office supplier, and eventually they'll learn and change."
Cully Nordby, chair of the Sustainability Committee and the academic director of the Institute of the Environment, agreed.
"It's not us who can make this happen," she said. "It's all of you, doing things like calling your vendors."