Nurit Katz Shares her Journey as UCLA’s First Chief Sustainability Officer


A Green Building Corps Mentor Spotlight: Exclusive interview with Nurit Katz (PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Los Angeles, first Chief Sustainability Officer appointed at UCLA and 2023 GBC mentor at US Green Building Council Los Angeles)

USGBC-LA Green Building Corps (GBC) mentor Nurit Katz recently connected with 2023 GBC member and mentee Elias Jabbe following her Zoom session in which she shared advice with the 6th GBC cohort. 
Following her year serving on the all-female board of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners during Mayor Eric Garcetti’s final term and the conclusion of the 2022-2023 academic year at UCLA, Katz shared reflections on her current projects in the interview conducted below via email by Jabbe.

Image: Nurit Katz at UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden (Courtesy of Nurit Katz

But first…thoughts on the Green Building Corps experience:

The six-month GBC experience is highly recommended because of the many opportunities to learn and become part of a community. As a francophile from Los Angeles who studied in France as a teenager at a French university, I mostly worked for French-speaking companies in Europe and Africa in areas like English translation of environmental policy in Paris during the lead up to COP21 and the Paris Agreement below. Most of my professional references and opportunities came from my active membership in la francophonie.

Once the Covid-19 pandemic began, I was living abroad and decided to return home to my native Los Angeles – thousands of miles away from la francophonie. It was important to reconnect with the community focused on sustainability that I met during my early days as a journalist covering the world of green, including the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator team I met in 2013.

Becoming a member of the summer cohort of the GBC allowed me to support the USGBC-LA mission at the LACI campus and across the City of LA, while growing my network of sustainability stars outside the City of Light as both cities look forward to hosting the Olympics.

Last but not least, the Mentor Match aspect of this experience was very important. It allowed me to connect with another LA native who enjoyed the same mountains I hiked weekly since age 7 (Griffith Park), and who shared initiatives I could get involved in to help preserve endangered wildlife (the LA Raptor Study led by Friends of Griffith Park) in those iconic mountains.

Sign up for the September 6th GBC information session (before you apply) to learn about the Fall 2023 cohort where you can embrace lifelong learning about the SoCal landscape just as I did. Whether you are from Los Angeles or moved here from another city, it’s always important to be part of a cause that is bigger than yourself – USGBC-LA GBC offers that opportunity.

The Nurit Katz interview:


Q: How has your sustainability mission evolved at UCLA since you first joined as Chief Sustainability Officer?
A: In the fifteen years since I began leading sustainability at UCLA, our mission has remained the same, but we have begun to develop stronger programs to address the third “E” of sustainability – “equity,” which is harder to measure and address and often not given as much attention as environmental metrics such as water, waste, or greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: How are you encouraging the UCLA community to explore your on-campus botanical garden and landscape and volunteer there to connect with nature in LA?

A: The Botanical Garden is a wonderful resource for the community. You can learn more about volunteering here: https://www.botgard.ucla.edu/volunteer.

Across campus, UCLA has an updated Landscape Plan that focuses on transitioning to native plants, supporting habitats and creating a thriving resilient campus that supports community wellness. You can learn more about the plan and biodiversity at UCLA here: https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/landscape-and-biodiversity

Q: How do you partner with the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES) and Sustainable LA Grand Challenge on faculty and student-led applied research?

A: Our sustainability office advises the UCLA IoES Sustainability Action Research Program, which brings together teams of undergraduate students and campus staff stakeholders on applied sustainability projects. We also work with the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program and with individual faculty and student organizations. For more info on applied campus research, visit: https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/applied-campus-research

Q: Why did you decide to be a guest speaker for USGBC-LA Green Building Corps?

A: I love teaching and mentorship, and connecting with professionals across the field. I always enjoy meeting members of the Corps.

Q: Why do you consider the USGBC-LA mission important to the City of LA and the legacy of sustainability in Southern California?

A: The built environment has an enormous impact on sustainability for our region and the globe. USGBC-LA’s programs and resources help move the region towards a more sustainable future, not only through traditional green building programming but also through programs like LASER, the LA Sustainability Executives Roundtable, in which I serve on the Leadership Committee, bringing together sustainability leaders across sectors to facilitate sharing of best practices.


About author:

Elias Jabbe is a native of Los Angeles, a leading LA linguist and life-long recycler and professional French translator since his university study abroad in France following his athletic career in Southern California on City of Los Angeles youth league sports teams. After surviving one of the most severe heat waves in Paris history during summer 2015 as a journalist employed full-time in the French capital during the months leading up to the UN COP21 conference and the Paris Agreement, he donated shade trees and volunteered at urban gardens when at home in Los Angeles during the hottest summers LA witnessed in both 2022 and 2023. When he’s not presenting Parisian posters and translating francophone research to English for clients in Europe and Africa such as Paris-based HUB Institute, he translates Parisian policy insights in French into data shared in English at symposiums like the historic UNESCO Paris “International Day of Light” celebration held for the first time at UCLA in May 2023 at the California NanoSystems Institute. Along with current research supporting faculty at UCLA Health, he can be found saving local LA lives by donating blood and platelets to the UCLA Ackerman Student Union Donor Center or hosting events as a chef and parfumier offering exclusive imported scents in Los Angeles County to USGBC-LA members.

He is currently preparing for the annual USGBC-LA MiniGolf Tournament as he turns the baseball swing he learned as an athlete playing for the Junior Dodgers into a golf swing. You can find him near UCLA at the Rancho Park Golf Course & Driving Range with the Wilson Sports team (see Instagram video here) and other sports lovers in the days leading up to the September 13 tee time with the USGBC-LA team in DTLA.
Click any of the below images or send an email to connect with Elias at the USGBC-LA mini-golf tournament supporting the Environmental Justice Project on September 13 and ask questions about golfing for a good cause:

https://usgbc-la.swoogo.com/minigolf23
Email address: elias@usgbc-la.org

Full biography on USGBC-LA website:
https://usgbcla.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/14-1-768×384.png
https://usgbcla.wpenginepowered.com/programs/green-building-corps

Selected environmental projects highlighting the road from COP21 to COP28 and 2023 USGBC-LA events hosted:

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