UCLA takes sustainability seriously. More than 166 UCLA faculty in 36 departments are engaged in climate and sustainability research, and the university is leading an effort to attain 100 percent sustainability in energy, water and biodiversity in Los Angeles by 2050 — and help ensure a brighter, healthier future for the city and its residents. Recognizing that human health and sustainability are inextricably linked, UCLA Health — of which the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is connected — plays an important role in these sustainability efforts and offers medical students numerous opportunities to get involved.
The UCLA Health Sustainability Steering Committee oversees and spearheads sustainability efforts across the departments and facilities that make up UCLA Health. These efforts focus on several areas, including waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, sustainable food practices, alternative transportation and energy efficiency. UCLA Health has already made significant progress on each of these fronts. In 2015, for example, more than 40 percent of waste was diverted from landfill, compared with 14 percent in 2011. Since 2013, more than 20 percent of the food used by Food Services and Nutrition came from sustainable sources. UCLA Health has received the Practice Greenhealth Partner for Change Award every year since 2010, with special recognition for reducing use of mercury in medical equipment and improving sustainable food practices. UCLA Health is also an active collaborator in the national Healthier Hospital Initiative.
Medical students have many opportunities to get involved in these efforts as well as in climate and sustainability research initiatives on campus. Students who have an idea for a sustainability project can apply for a grant through the Green Initiative Fund. The fund makes roughly $200,000 per year available for student-organized projects to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage sustainability practices on campus and in the community. Medical students can get involved in other ways too: as an intern with the sustainability office or as a representative on sustainability committees and task forces.
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA also offers students the opportunity to get involved with research efforts. More than 30 faculty are involved in sustainability research projects, including environmental effects on neurology, biological response to air pollution, climate change and disaster preparedness, and mechanisms behind cancer-causing chemicals in the environment.
In addition, students can apply to conduct their own climate and sustainability research on campus through the Living Laboratory Program. Graduate students can participate in the Leaders in Sustainability Graduate Certificate program, which attracts students from different disciplines who wish to make sustainability a central tenet of their profession.
Working together, students, faculty and community residents can help make Los Angeles a healthier place for all.
By Emily Paulsen