May 2020 Update
We hope this message finds you safe and well. The UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge team is working remotely, and we have postponed the launch of our on-campus event series, Our Los Angeles, Our Future . Nonetheless, we remain focused on advancing our vision for Los Angeles to be the most sustainable megacity in the world by 2050. (For more on this expanded vision for the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, read this summary of the Town Hall we hosted in March.)

In the nearer term, along with our partners, we are beginning to envision what a sustainable and equitable recovery from this global pandemic could look like. Thanks for your support! 

Eric M. V. Hoek, Ph.D., Director, UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge

Cassie Rauser, Ph.D., Executive Director, UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge
L.A. County's Biodiversity is on the Map
UCLA researchers have published the  Biodiversity Atlas of Los Angeles , a new website to help scientists and residents alike better understand Los Angeles’ unique environment and see how native, nonnative and endangered species are distributed across the county. Users can enter any street address in the county and visualize, for example, how likely they are to come across a mountain lion or black bear. The project was funded by the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge to enhance our understanding of the region’s ecosystems. Read more .
Research Spotlight
A biophilia treehouse by UCLA Counterforce Lab
Fighting Climate Change through Art and Design

The Counterforce Lab is a research and fieldwork studio founded by Rebeca Méndez, a professor in the Department of Design Media Arts at UCLA. The studio works to facilitate collaborations and develop research methods to create projects around the ecological impacts of the climate crisis. 

“Changing behavior is the driving force behind art and design. It’s our superpower,” Méndez said. “It’s really about giving the ability to take something that is highly complex and being able to have that connection to people in a human way.”

As part of a contest organized by the nonprofit Pando Populus, the team has responded creatively to a goal in the Los Angeles County Sustainability Plan: Thriving ecosystems, habitats and biodiversity. They developed a prototype (pictured above) for a “biophilia treehouse,” a lightweight sculpture to serve as both habitat for birds and a space to honor the region’s biodiversity. Read more .
Seen and Heard in the News
  • The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is highlighted in the cover story of the Spring 2020 UCLA magazine, along with several faculty members whose research is advancing our understanding and response to the climate crisis. 

  • Yifang Zhu, a professor in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, was quoted in the Washington Post and CNN about the air quality impacts of California’s stay-at-home order.

  •  Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about a study suggesting that the Western U.S. may be experiencing a two decades-long “megadrought.”

  • Peter Kareiva, director of UCLA’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, was quoted in a USA Today story highlighting the results of a survey showing that a majority of Americans want to reduce the effects of climate change and support a variety of solutions
Highlights from Across UCLA
The LA skyline on a clear day in March 2020. Photo by Nurit Katz/UCLA
Net-Zero Emissions Study
In a study supported in part by the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, UCLA researchers describe a pathway for California to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. These actions would prevent about 14,000 premature deaths annually. Read more.
Cars traveling on a highway. Photo by Pixabay
Emissions Standards Rollback
When the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era auto emissions standards, legal experts from the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment were widely quoted in the national and global media. Read more.
California Aquaduct Pumping Station. Photo by Elf/Wiki Commons
The Energy-Water Connection
A team of researchers from UCLA and across California published an analysis of how targeted changes in water supply could affect Los Angeles County’s energy needs, as well as the significant energy requirements of residential water heating. Read more .
Students from UCLA’s CALPIRG chapter gather for an announcement about the university’s plans to phase out single-use plastics in food service.
Goodbye, Single-Use Plastics
UCLA drafted a new policy to remove single-use plastics from campus food service, making it one of the largest universities nationwide to pursue phasing out one-use plastics. The draft policy is out for public review until June 1. Read more.
L.A. County Plastic Waste Study
The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation issued a report commissioned by the Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office designed to inform the drafting of an ordinance to reduce plastic consumption and waste. The report confirms that single-use plastic food service waste has an outsized negative impact. Read more .
Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant. Image by BettinaFilms/Wiki Commons
L.A. Wastewater Recycling
The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is analyzing a plan to recycle all of Los Angeles’ wastewater by 2035. The research project is one of several funded under a $5 million agreement announced in 2018 between the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and UCLA as part of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge. Read more .
Landmark Transportation Study
A team from UCLA will work alongside researchers from UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Irvine on a landmark study to identify strategies for achieving carbon neutrality in California’s transportation sector by 2045. Transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Read more.
Two newts from Southern California, the newt on the left showing 20% reduced body condition. Photo source: Gary Bucciarelli/UCLA.
California Newts Suffer
A UCLA-led study found that the body conditions of the California newt decreased an average of 20 percent from 2008-2016 as a result of the latest drought. As climate change continues to change temperature and precipitation rates, experts predict the species will continue to suffer. Read more .
About the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge
The  UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge  is a university-wide initiative aimed at applying UCLA research, expertise and education to help transform Los Angeles into the most sustainable megacity by 2050. Our vision is to create a cleaner, healthier, more livable, equitable and resilient Los Angeles of the future that can serve as a model for megacities across the globe.  Make a gift  to support cutting-edge sustainability research and to educate the next generation of sustainability leaders.