Nurit Katz - Chief Sustainability Officer at UCLA

Nurit Katz - Chief Sustainability Officer at UCLA

Nurit Katz joins Sustainable Nation to discuss:

  • Leading sustainability change in a large organization

  • Updates on sustainability programs and research initiatives at UCLA

  • Information on the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Nurit Katz Final Five responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

One piece of advice,  it's interesting, this wasn't what I planned to say, but recently a colleague, one of our alumni who I regard very highly, um, Jamie Knack, shared a book that she had read called The Power of a Positive No. And I've now gotten it and shared it with my team. And I think in these roles you're pulled in so many different directions, that actually learning how to kind of prioritize how to say no. So many of us are such yes-people that we get really excited to help everyone at all times. And sometimes that in of itself is not sustainable.

So as I say to many of my colleagues, you can't sustain the university or the world if you don't sustain yourself. So, I think, you know, learning how to share, redirect and make sure that you take care of yourself is actually really critical to be a successful professional in this field. And then in terms of more traditional career advice, this field changes so quickly that I would really recommend people get out there and attend events and talk to people. So much of what I learned was that way, going to panels, getting out there, networking and it's not as set of a field where you can just read one book or guide on how to be a lawyer. It's just changing so rapidly. And so I didn't even know, for example, that the title of director of a regenerative development existed until I heard you speak on a panel a while back and the role chief sustainability officer didn't exist until some years ago. So I think if people want to stay up to date, they got to get out there, meet people, hear what programs are going on and stay current.

Great advice. What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability and regenerative development?

That's tough. You know, part of why I ended up with a job like chief sustainability officer is that I have always been sort of a jack of all master of none generalist type person. I get so excited about all of it. Water to energy, transportation, food, environmental justice and social equity issues. But I think one of the things that's really exciting right now is people are starting to recognize the importance of separation technologies and we've spent so much of human innovation combining materials and putting things together and there's such great potential in figuring out how to break them back apart again until they're useful parts. And I think there's a lot of untapped potential in that area, which really relates to kind of taking what would be a waste product and being able to upcycle it and use it in new and exciting ways

What is one book you'd recommend to other sustainability professionals. 

You know, it's kind of an oldie but goody, but I happened to love Ray Anderson's, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. I think his journey on the sustainable business side is really worth a read, but there's really so many that I recommend to my students and it's really hard to choose. So I guess for today that's the one I'll, I'll throw out there.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

Well, again, a lot of great resources. I am fond of collaborations and sharing best practices among professionals. So we have a group we get together of higher education professionals here in southern California and then more broadly, through the California higher education sustainability conference or through AASHE. So getting together with colleagues both in our sector and across sectors I think is really valuable. You know, lots of good resources through some of those organizations in terms of tools and guides that people can use. We definitely work with a lot of kind of cloud based tools now and collaborative work sharing tools. So those can be handy as well.

And where can our listeners go to learn more about the work you are leading at UCLA?

So ucla sustainability's website is You can reach me and my team at That email address will come direct to our central office. Twitter handle is @sustainucla and it's really an enormous team working on these issues. I'm just a nexus and connector here of just an incredible group of professionals across our operational and academic and research areas. And so I'm happy to be that connector. If anyone is interested in any of the fabulous work being done here, I can help point you to the folks who are working on those programs and we'd love to hear from you.