In a National Geographic article exploring transit-oriented development in cities across the globe, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville commented on the challenges facing Los Angeles. The article focused on architect Peter Calthorpe, who highlights the negative effects of car-oriented urban environments on climate, air quality and congestion, in addition to time and money wasted by drivers. Urban planners look to transit-oriented development to remake healthy urban spaces and reverse the damage caused by dependence on automobiles. Calthorpe imagines an urban utopia where cities would stop expanding, pave less and heat the air and the planet around them less. He recommends dense clusters of walkable communities around a web of rapid transit to support a growing population. Manville weighed in on the urban environment of Los Angeles, where residents continue to rely on cars despite efforts to improve public transit. The conundrum, Manville said, is that “driving’s too cheap [and] housing’s too expensive.”
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, was quoted in an article from CityLab on a speculative proposal for sustainable living in the face of our rapidly changing climate. The futuristic solution involves high-tech cities that float atop the surface of the ocean and are aimed at total self-sufficiency in terms of food and energy production. The floating city is designed to provide permanent communities for those displaced by rising sea levels. Goh encouraged bold, utopian thinking but said this idea was unrealistic, mainly because these cities — while certainly a beautiful vision — could never provide enough homes for the several million people threatened with displacement. According to Goh, ideas like the floating city “are oftentimes posed as solving some big problem, when in many ways [they’re] an attempt to get away from the kinds of social and political realities of other places,” she said.
Gregory Pierce, associate director of research at the Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke with 20 Questions About Water about access to clean water in the United States and around the world. Pierce, an adjunct assistant professor of urban planning, said the percentage of people with access to clean water has increased but the raw number has not due to population growth. Pierce believes the government should be responsible for providing water at the local level. When governments have insufficient resources or are beset by corruption, a coalition of private companies, NGOs, the government and the community should be formed to provide real solutions, he argued. In the next 100 years, Pierce believes, water will become more decentralized and investments in water resources and technology will pay off. He encouraged citizens concerned about access to clean water to pressure decision-makers to take action.
Los Angeles’ innovative food purchasing system, spearheaded by UCLA Luskin Urban Planning lecturer Paula Daniels, has been recognized by the United Nations for its impact in promoting sustainable agriculture. The city’s Good Food Purchasing Program creates a food supply chain guided by nutrition, environmental sustainability, animal welfare and impact on local economies. The program was honored for harnessing the buying power of all city departments and the Los Angeles Unified School District to benefit students, growers, distributors and entrepreneurs. Since its launch in 2012, the program has expanded across the United States with support from the Center for Good Food Purchasing. The non-governmental organization is a spin-off of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council founded by Daniels in 2011. The L.A. program was one of eight from around the world to be recognized by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Future Council and IFOAM Organics International. Daniels accepted the honor on behalf of the city at a ceremony in Rome in October 2018. On the same day, Daniels learned she had received an Ashoka Fellowship, awarded to innovators and entrepreneurs seeking creative solutions to the world’s biggest social challenges. “There’s so much interest, desire, will to make the food system more equitable and environmentally sound,” Daniels said in a Forbes article. “The fact that people are responding to our idea as a way forward for them is incredibly gratifying.”
The UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Center for Innovation was awarded the Sustainable Impact Award by the Los Angeles Business Council on April 19, 2018, at the organization’s 12th annual Sustainability Summit. Attending a VIP and awards reception at the summit were Meyer and Renee Luskin and JR DeShazo, director of the Center for Innovation. “The award recognizes the impact that Meyer and Renee’s generous gift has had on Los Angeles through UCLA. I felt grateful to be able to receive it with them,” said DeShazo, who also serves as the chair of Public Policy at UCLA Luskin. The award cited the Center for Innovation for its “leadership in developing cutting-edge strategies to spur renewable energy and energy efficiency in California.” The award further recognized the Center for “supporting the creation and implementation of state and local policies, investments and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This year’s summit featured regional leaders such as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for a discussion on West Coast climate leadership. The two-day summit also included expert panels about clean energy and climate change, as well as water management, resources and security. — Stan Paul
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J.R. DeShazo, left, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, and Gaurav Sant, professor of civil and environmental engineering, hold a first-generation sample of CO2NCRETE. Photo by Roberto Gudino Jr.
Working to upend one of the most stalwart of construction materials, a team of UCLA engineers, scientists and policy experts has advanced to the finals of the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE by successfully creating a version of concrete that is nearly carbon-dioxide-neutral.
The international competition, which began in 2015 and is scheduled to conclude in 2020, challenged teams to develop carbon technologies that convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial facilities into viable products. The eco-friendly building material, called CO2NCRETE, was developed by the UCLA Carbon Upcycling team and offers similar strengths and functionality as traditional concrete.
Ten finalists have been selected from a field of 27 semifinalists by an independent judging panel of eight international energy, sustainability and carbon dioxide experts. The teams have been awarded an equal share of a $5 million milestone prize.
“As the son and grandson of civil engineers, I have always been fascinated by construction, and reaching the XPRIZE finals by doing what I am most passionate about is perfectly aligned with what I value,” said Gaurav Sant, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science in the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. “The concrete and construction industries are ripe for disruption and the ability to make a positive impact in these sectors, while lessening our carbon dioxide footprint, is a worthy cause for the entire UCLA team.”
Sant is the head of the team, whose leadership also includes J.R. DeShazo, professor of public policy and director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation; Laurent Pilon, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Richard Kaner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College and of materials science; and Mathieu Bauchy, professor of civil engineering. Additional team members include Gabriel Falzone, a doctoral student in materials science; Iman Mehdipour and Hyukmin Kweon, post-doctoral scholars in civil and environmental engineering; and Bu Wang, a project scientist in civil and environmental engineering, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
To secure a place in the finals, the UCLA team had to demonstrate that their technology consumed 200 kg of carbon dioxide in 24 hours. During a 10-month period, they were challenged to meet minimum technical requirements and were audited by independent verification partner Southern Research. The team was then evaluated by the judges based on the amount of carbon dioxide converted into CO2NCRETE, as well as the economic value, market size and carbon dioxide uptake potential of the construction material.
“The competition provides an opportunity for UCLA’s cutting-edge academic research to be applied in the real world,” Sant said. “The performance-based measures of CO2NCRETE have been useful in showing that this effort is not only viable, but scalable. And, of course, the support provided by the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Foundation has been foundational to our success.”
Traditional forms of cement are formed from anhydrous calcium silicate, while CO2NCRETE is composed from hydrated lime that is able to absorb carbon dioxide quickly into its composition. As a result, producing CO2NCRETE generates between 50 to 70 percent less carbon dioxide than its traditional counterpart.
The unique “lime mortar-like” composition also helps reduce the nearly 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emitted from the production of ordinary portland cement, the binding agent used in traditional concrete.
The most compelling advantage CO2NCRETE offers when compared to other carbon capture and utilization technologies, Sant said, is that the carbon dioxide stream used in its production does not have to be processed before use. The manufacturing process allows for carbon dioxide borne in the flue gas of power and industrial plants to be captured and converted at its source. This advantage creates a cost-competitive business model that avoids the expense of a carbon dioxide enrichment or treatment facility.
“These teams are showing us amazing examples of carbon conversion and literally reimagining carbon. The diversity of technologies on display is an inspiring vision of a new carbon economy,” said Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE senior director of energy and resources and prize lead. “We are trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by converting them into useful materials, and do so in an economically sustainable way.”
In the final and most ambitious stage of the competition, teams must demonstrate carbon dioxide utilization at a scale of two tons per day — a scale that is 10 times greater than the semifinals requirements — at an industrial test site. The UCLA team will compete at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, a carbon research facility in Gillette, Wyoming, co-located with the Dry Fork Station coal power plant. This final stage of the competition will start in June 2019 and conclude in early 2020.
Sant is also the director of the Institute for Carbon Management at UCLA, which draws on UCLA’s campus-wide expertise to create innovative solutions to the climate change challenge. Launched this spring, the institute is developing advanced technology and market-driven strategies for mitigating the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
By Will Livesley-O’Neill
The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies kicked off its spring speaker series with one of the world’s most influential urbanists, Gil Penalosa, an advocate for public spaces and sustainable mobility. Cities must meet the challenges of the 21st century through public policy and design that improves the quality of life for all residents, Penalosa argued.
“We need to decide how we want to live,” he told a large crowd of Luskin School students, staff, faculty and community partners.
Penalosa, a graduate of the MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School, is the founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization based in Toronto and dedicated to the idea that urban spaces should benefit an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old equally. He also chairs the board of World Urban Parks, an international association in favor of open space and recreation, after getting his start by transforming parks programs as a commissioner in Bogotá.
The groundbreaking programs overseen by Penalosa in Colombia included a weekly event to turn city streets into activity centers for walking, biking and other activities, which has served as a model for CicLAvia in Los Angeles and similar programs worldwide. Penalosa said that after streets turn into “the world’s largest pop-up park,” people begin to think about how much of their city is usually off-limits.
“All of a sudden we realize that the streets are public,” he said, adding that in a given city, around 35 percent of the total land is occupied by roadways. “We need to be much better at using everything that is public.”
Penalosa, who has consulted for more than 300 cities around the world, urges local leaders to use public space such as libraries and schoolyards for communal activities. He said that “playability” is a feature in urban design — making spaces more welcoming for children opens them up for everyone else as well. Every city should set a goal to have some kind of park within a 10-minute walk of any home, Penalosa said.
“Parks and public spaces are fantastic equalizers,” he said, describing the social integration that takes place during large sporting events, political protests and smaller exchanges such as children interacting with a sculpture. Penalosa added that public space helps people make friends and live healthier, but it can also promote transit and climate policy goals.
“Safe and enjoyable walking and biking should be a human right,” he said, noting that non-driving transit modes are not just recreational activities but the primary means of transportation for most of the world’s population. As the global urban population has surged — with the number of people living in cities expected to grow from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people over the next four decades — Penalosa believes that policymakers must shift their focus away from accommodating car travel and toward improving quality of life. This means prioritizing human interaction in public spaces by expanding parks, building sidewalks, reducing speed limits to make walking safer, connecting bicycle routes into cohesive grids, and much more.
Penalosa’s talk was presented in partnership with the California Association for Coordinated Transportation (CALACT), a statewide nonprofit association advocating for small transit agencies, rural transportation funding and coordinated mobility programs. The full schedule for the spring transportation speaker series will soon be available on the ITS website.
View additional photos from the presentation in a Flickr album:
In the face of extreme weather, polluted aquifers, overconsumption and other urgent threats to our water supply, Sandra Postel has reason to hope. The leading authority on water sustainability has traveled the world seeking out fresh strategies to protect an ecosystem that is under attack. “Yes, the water cycle is badly broken,” she told a gathering hosted by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation on Jan. 25. “But through creativity, through innovation, through some interesting ingenuity, a good dose of courage and some risk-taking … we can fix it.” Instead of trying to tame nature, humans would be wiser to respect its rhythms, says Postel, who lays out her case in the new book “Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity.” At the Luskin Innovators Speaker Series event, Postel was joined by a panel of policy experts and entrepreneurs from across Southern California: Eric Hoek, former UCLA professor and co-founder of Water Planet, which develops advanced water filtration systems; Rita Kampalath, program director for L.A. County’s Chief Sustainability Office; and Omar Moghaddam, who has three decades of experience working with wastewater and renewable resources in Los Angeles. The discussion was moderated by Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor of environment and sustainability at UCLA. Postel stressed that collaboration is key to a more secure water future. A national initiative she co-created, Change the Course, draws together business leaders, conservationists and the public to reduce waste and replenish water in the natural world. To date, Change the Course has restored more than 8 billion gallons to depleted rivers and wetlands, earning it the 2017 U.S. Water Prize for creative water management solutions. “Sounds like a big number,” says Postel. “It’s a drop in the bucket, of course, of what’s needed. But it’s made a difference.” — Mary Braswell
View a Flickr album from Postel’s talk and the panel discussion that followed:
Meyer Luskin was the keynote speaker for “Waste Not: How to Make the Most of What We’ve Got,” part of the "Off the Table" series. Photo by Stan Paul
By Zev Hurwitz
If a batch of bread has too much flour when it makes its way to the factory assembly line, the dough is a no-go. But what is a profitable company to do when it’s left with unsellable food waste?
Recycle it, of course.
At an Oct. 18 lecture, Meyer Luskin explained the idea and logistics behind the successful national food recovery business for which he’s worked over 50 years. In conversation with Urban Planning lecturer Paula Daniels, founder of the LA Food Policy Council, Luskin said he began to think critically about food conservation early in life.
“I’ve always believed in recycling,” he said. “As a young man, I’d always worry about ‘what happens when we run out of this, or don’t have enough coal?’”
Luskin has made reducing food waste a centerpiece of his career. As chairman and chief executive officer of Scope Industries, a company he joined in 1961 that specializes in food recycling, Luskin led the expansion of an operation geared at turning food production waste into animal feed.
The concept is simple, Luskin explained to the 50-plus students, faculty and community members who attended the afternoon lecture. When a factory produces a batch of food that doesn’t meet its retail standards, assembly-line workers will place undesirable product into bins, provided by Luskin’s company.
The bins, which often contain complete products — including packaging and other inedible materials — are transported to processing plants where the grain-based food matter is separated, ground and dried to rid it of moisture, ensuring the food will survive the shipping process. The finished product is then sold to farmers to be used as livestock feed.
Luskin brought in a mason jar filled to the brim with a treated batch of animal feed to show the class. “This may have once been a huge mound of garbage,” he said, explaining that sometimes assembly-line workers treat collection bins as trash receptacles.
“This looks like something we could eat ourselves!” Daniels said, examining the jar.
Even though the finished product might actually be fit for human consumption, people are not actually allowed to eat it per Food and Drug Administration Standards, Luskin informed attendees.
“This product has been on the floor, most of the machinery is not stainless steel, but when it comes out of our dryer … we’ve killed every bug that you can imagine,” he said.
Luskin’s company began with a single processing facility in 1962, handling 100,000 pounds of food per year. Today, the company has 17 plants across the country and recycles 2.6 billion pounds of food annually. Each ton of feed sells for about $120, or six cents per pound — allowing farmers to affordably feed livestock with grain products that might have otherwise been thrown away.
Daniels is teaching an Urban Planning course titled, “Got Spam? Making of Good Food System” this quarter, focusing on “ways to build community-centric values into food system[s].”
“It’s important to hear from Meyer Luskin about the work that he’s been doing in Los Angeles and around the country for a long time and how it contributes to what we’re calling the ‘circular economy,’” Daniels said before the event. “It’s a great example for a direction that we need to go in as a society in terms of dealing with the excesses of what we produce. Meyer’s model takes that excess and makes it an asset.”
The lecture was the first speaker event of the Luskin School of Public Affairs’ ongoing “Off the Table” series of discussions, screenings and events aimed at educating the UCLA Luskin community about where our food comes from and how it can become more sustainable.
Among the themes addressed by “Off the Table” is the concept of food justice and responsibility to ensure the food that is produced does not end up in landfills — tying in neatly with the conversation about Luskin’s work and the challenge to prevent further food waste. A full program of “Off the Table’ events can be found here.
“Harvesting Change: Fostering Partnerships for Food Security” took place Oct. 26 at the Luskin School and featured a festival held on the 3rd Floor Commons of the Public Affairs Building.
Fatinah Darwish, a program manager at the L.A. County Department of Public Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity, talked about county efforts to reduce food insecurity by increasing inter-agency coordination among government, healthcare and non-profit organizations.
Mental health expert Rhea Holler, Ph.D., spoke about the shame and feelings of failure often experienced by people who are unable to afford food for themselves and their families.
UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow Rick Nahmias, founder and executive director of Food Forward, talked about his organization’s history and its ongoing efforts to repurpose surplus food from fruit trees, farmers markets and other sources to provide hunger relief in Southern California.
Attendees also heard from Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action LA, which is working to end hunger and promote healthy eating through a variety of advocacy, direct service and organizing efforts that benefit Los Angeles residents.
Access a Flickr gallery from this event below.
On Nov. 7, 2017, a panel discussion titled, “Breaking Bread: Community Building with Veterans and Farming,” focused attention on the community and health benefits of urban farming for the veteran population.
The participants included moderator Kris Skinner, a retired Army captain and UCLA alumnus; physician Peter Capone-Newton MA ’09, PhD ’13 of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mick Deluca, assistant vice chancellor, UCLA Campus Life; Jeremy Samson, a military veteran and urban farmer; and Julie Sardonia, program director for Veteran Farmers of America.
A reception at La Kretz Garden Pavilion in the UCLA Botanical Gardens preceded the panel discussion, which focused on efforts to revitalize a 14-acre garden on the U.S. Veteran Affairs campus in West Los Angeles. The event was timed to coincide with other university activities in advance of this year’s Veterans Day holiday.
Access a Flickr gallery from the event below.
On Nov. 13, Maria Elena Chávez’s presence at the screening of “Dolores,” a documentary depicting the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, sent a powerful message about generational activism and fostering change within minority communities.
The political landscape of Huerta’s generation, where there were fights for basic human rights of farm workers, is not so different from today, Chávez said about her mother’s efforts. As the film depicts, marginalized immigrant farmworkers living in poverty were able to organize and fight for their rights, benefitting generations to come. Huerta, now 87, was at the heart of this movement, demanding respect, fair wages and access to clean water on the job.
Chávez described her mother as “unstoppable” and “passionate” as she has continued to make an impact in her community after leaving the Unified Farm Workers Movement organization and creating the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Chávez also discussed her mother’s impact on her life and professional choices as a political filmmaker and civil rights activist. “It’s in my blood,” said Chávez, who is the daughter of Huerta and Richard Chavez, the brother of César Chávez.
She also spoke of the challenges of growing up in a politically active family and adversities she faced because of her mother’s dedication to the civil rights movement while raising 11 children.
“Maria Elena Chavez’s visit to UCLA provided a direct appeal to join the movement for justice,” said Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which co-sponsored the event. “The political landscape that mobilized farmworkers to demand respect, fair wages and workplace access to restrooms and water is not too different from today’s crisis of inequality. As the film ‘Dolores’ makes clear, farmworkers and countless other U.S. workers living in poverty have the skills to organize, and those of us with means have the obligation to support.”
As first-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning students, Bianca Juarros and Esteban Doyle wanted to find meaningful ways to get involved with the UCLA campus community. The Luskin Food Mentorship program provided a way for them to do just that, while also exploring interesting and relevant topics. Read about their experience coordinating a volunteer event that brought UCLA students together on the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the L.A. Kitchen to prepare food for community service organizations such as homeless shelters and senior centers.
On Dec. 2, 2017, UCLA Luskin Master of Urban and Regional Planning students Alexander Salgado and Ana Kobara joined with UCLA undergraduate mentees Audree Hsu and Sophie Go as part of the UCLA Luskin Food Mentorship program to participate in a volunteer effort with Food Forward. Food Forward is a nonprofit organization that works with multiple farmer’s markets in Los Angeles to collect donated food from vendors to pass along to organizations in need of fresh food. Throughout the day, the students walked a farmer’s market in Hollywood and delivered empty boxes to vendors that could fill them with produce. For the day, the student volunteers collected and organized more than 1,700 pounds of food, which was then delivered or picked up by various organizations in need. “The experience in itself was very rewarding,” Salgado said. “It was nice to see vendors so eager and willing to help others.”
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program wrapped up its 10-week “Off the Table” series on urban agriculture, food security, and food policy with a moderated discussion on the sustainability of social enterprises within the food industry led by Evan Kleiman, chef and host of “Good Food” on KCRW. She was joined by panelists Anar Joshi of Everytable, Kaitlin Mogentale of Pulp Pantry, Nick Panepinto of L.A. Kitchen and Karla T. Vasquez of SalviSoul during a gathering on Nov. 30 at the L.A. Kitchen facility in Lincoln Heights near downtown Los Angeles. Among other topics, the speakers talked about their efforts to promote healthy eating among young people. “One of our most successful programs was cooking lessons for kids,” Vasquez said during the panel discussion. “We told them, ‘You can like something, love something, or hate it. But you have to make it. There’s so much food in the world, and you get to try it all!’” Afterward, attendees had a chance to do some cooking themselves, making a vegetarian ricotta carpaccio from scratch under Kleiman’s direction. Download the recipe. View a video of the panel discussion. Browse a Flickr album of images from the event below.
Members of the UCLA Luskin community gathered at Wattles Farm on Oct. 7, 2017, to serve as leaders during UCLA’s Volunteer Day. Once on the farm in the heart of West Hollywood, this assorted group of Luskin faculty, staff and students organized and worked alongside UCLA undergraduates to participate in ongoing work there. Wattles Farm is an organic community farm whose mission is to provide the area’s diverse local population with a rare opportunity to participate in sustainable agricultural practices. Luskin volunteers not only got to spend a morning aiding with maintenance of a sustainable mainstay of Los Angeles, they also further united with UCLA and the greater Los Angeles community through conversations and life stories shared over snacks of oranges, granola and water. Hover over the image below to access a Flickr gallery of photos taken that day by Aaron Julian.