UCLA introduced its first campuswide sustainability action plan during Earth Month 2022. One year later, a broad range of initiatives outlined by the plan is demonstrating progress.
Overall, the initiatives have further embedded responsible stewardship into the campus’s operations, education and research, as well as into the ways UCLA engages with the community.
UCLA established an office dedicated to sustainability directives 15 years ago, and members of the campus community have long understood the institution’s role, as a public university, in advancing climate action and leading the way toward a more sustainable future. But the sustainability plan set concrete targets across a range of measures, from energy conservation to biodiversity to waste management.
Among the highlights of the plan’s first 12 months:
Climate and energy
Charging up the goal to procure 100% clean electricity by 2025, UCLA signed a contract for large-scale on-site solar energy through a program with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The agreement will lead to the installation of solar panels in multiple parking structures and on campus rooftops.
Supported by funding from the state, UCLA is also initiating a study of the campus’s energy infrastructure to identify a path beyond carbon neutrality to full decarbonization. The study’s consultants will be guided by a team of UCLA staff from the sustainability, capital programs and facilities management units, and advised by a Decarbonization Task Force made up of faculty and student advocates. The results of the study will be used to set near- and long-term targets for direct decarbonization of campus energy systems.
Landscape and biodiversity
A committee representing capital programs, facilities management, the sustainability office and a Landscape and Ecology Task Force, along with UCLA Extension’s landscape, horticulture, and gardening program director, developed a 30-year plan for creating and nurturing biodiverse, natural environments and green spaces on campus that also promote the health and wellness of Bruins and campus visitors.
The group’s recommendations included adding more tree canopies and shaded areas on campus and providing more views of greenery from the medical center and residence halls.
And in August 2022, three dozen groundskeeping crew members completed the California Native Plant Landscaper Certification to support the campus’s transition to native and climate-resilient landscaping.
In August 2022, aluminum containers replaced plastic water bottles in the residential community's vending machines. (Plastic bottles had already been removed from dining services restaurants in January 2022, prior to the implementation of the plan.)
In addition, in June 2022, UCLA secured more than $244,000 in funding from the California Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery. The support will help expand efforts that address student food insecurity: salvaging surplus edible items instead of letting them go to waste and redistributing the food to those in need.
Planetary and human health
UCLA is engaged in equity-centered climate action through a University of California pilot program that launched in January. The program centers on incorporating justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into climate resilience planning, to better support vulnerable populations in the face of climate hazards. The effort is a collaboration among UCLA Health, the offices of emergency management and of insurance and risk management, and other units.
In July 2022, UCLA Health joined a health sector climate pledge initiative launched by the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, committing to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
At the beginning of 2023, UCLA Transportation published an EV Readiness Plan, which calls for all new vehicles procured for the campus fleet — including more zero-emission BruinBuses — to be hybrid or all-electric effective immediately. The university plans to procure two additional electric buses this year and electrify the entire bus fleet by 2025. More EV charging stations are being installed in campus parking areas, with plans for a total of 1,000 charging points by 2025.
“UCLA has made important strides this year in sustainability and continuing that progress will require engagement across the university — faculty, staff, and students, and support from our community,” said Nurit Katz, UCLA’s chief sustainability officer. “People can learn more about how to get involved at the UCLA Sustainability website.”
Additionally, the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge — the interdisciplinary, campuswide effort by scholars working together to elevate climate solutions for the L.A. region — also had gains to report. The grand challenge launched a program called Transformative Research and Collaboration, or TRACtion, which encompasses activities and funding opportunities to address transportation, energy, water and ecosystems.
Since the summer of 2022, UCLA experts also have been helping guide the LADWP as the municipal utility works to achieve its goal of producing all its energy from carbon-free and renewable energy sources by 2035 and doing so in ways that benefit all Angelenos equitably.