Aiming for a Greener UCLA
Former GSA President Nurit Katz becomes first-ever sustainability coordinator on campus
Ever since she received a book called “101 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth,” Nurit Katz has been interested in sustainability.
Katz is returning to UCLA as its first-ever sustainability coordinator, years after her interest was sparked when she participated in a fundraiser to purchase an acre of the rainforest.
She was the 2007-2008 president of UCLA’s Graduate Students Association and has worked with the sustainability committee.
“I’m very passionate about sustainability,” Katz said. “(This position) was a perfect fit.”
Katz said she will now work throughout the year to enact her plans to improve UCLA’s efforts to become a more sustainable campus.
“I see my position as someone to help coordinate all the different efforts in sustainability ‑ to see the synergies and connect people so they can work together,” Katz said. “Sustainability is inherently a question that cuts across disciplines.”
An alumna of UCLA, Katz was hired in November and since then has been working on several initiatives. One of these initiatives is a climate action plan.
The plan, originally written by the Operations Subcommittee of the Campus Sustainability Committee, will be completed and finalized by Katz this month.
The project details UCLA’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions levels to the levels they were at in 2000, Katz said. The project aims to do so by 2014.
The plan also aims to reach the 1990 emissions levels by 2020, Katz added.
Campus energy and fuel usage, along with emissions from students’ commutes, buildings and air travel for research purposes are all taken into account to determine the emissions levels.
Katz said UCLA will meet both goals by 2012 and will be the first UC to complete the full plan.
In addition to a climate action plan, Katz also plans to continue work with CleanTech Los Angeles.
CleanTech coordinates with several Los Angeles agencies toward improving clean technology, according to the CleanTech Los Angeles Web site.
UCLA and CleanTech will work with the mayor of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, California Technical Institute, the Department of Water and Power and the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
UCLA will aid CleanTech’s efforts to help convince businesses to relocate to Los Angeles, Katz said.
Katz also hopes to increase UCLA’s communication with the outside community in the new year and to improve the public’s understanding of sustainability.
She said she plans to reach out by presenting the climate action plan to the public and inviting community members to campus.
“A lot of change needs to come from change in behavior,” Katz said. “We need to work together as a community so that we can change things.”
During her short time as the sustainability coordinator, Katz has actively advocated for new research projects on campus.
One of these projects is a hydrogen fuel research station, which would be located at UCLA.
This project is currently in negotiation and could be eligible for state funding, said Mike Swords, executive director of Strategic Research Initiative.
“She’s willing to help promote various things on campus,” Swords said. “She has a really strong work ethic.”
As a former graduate student leader in sustainability, Katz said she will also lend her experience to several student groups as an advisor and mentor.
She currently serves as a client and advisor for E3, which stands for ecology, economy and equity.
Serving as the UCLA chapter of the statewide organization California Student Sustainability Coalition, E3 aims to teach about sustainable living and what students can do to get involved, Katz said.
She said she is also involved with Action Research Team. The project is part of a course spanning two quarters, during which students take part in research on campus sustainability.
As a project stakeholder, Katz said she mentors four Action Research Teams, which are made up of three to six students each. Students in the small groups tackle issues such as transportation and waste management, as well as campus sustainability, she said.
“I think it’s a really exciting time now,” Katz said. “We’re faced with some really serious challenges, but students can have a really important impact.”
Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009