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LA County receives C-plus on environmental health report

By Sylvia Lutze

April 8, 2015 6:18 p.m.

Los Angeles County received a C+ on a report card from UCLA yesterday for multiple environmental factors.

The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability graded the entire county together on multiple factors relating to environmental health, such as water, air, ecosystems, waste, energy and quality of life.

The county did worst in ecosystems and water. The grading was based on the availability of resources and sustainability of the environment.

The goal was to create a baseline for the county and give feedback that could lead to new ideas for improvement, said Mark Gold, acting director of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability.

To help with this goal, UCLA worked with the Goldhirsh Foundation and LA2050, an initiative that aims to bring the community together to understand the current state of Los Angeles and goals for 2050.

“LA2050 is envisioning the LA we want to see in 2050, but it also gives us an idea of where we are right now,” Gold said.

The report card is the first comprehensive environmental ranking for Los Angeles County, and one of the first for any major metropolitan area, Gold said. It compiles data from different areas within the county to give an overall picture of the environment.

UCLA Grand Challenges is also working on its first project, which is focused on improving the local environment.

“UCLA Grand Challenges are pulling together the research efforts across the entire campus to determine what we need to do to transition to better biodiversity, water sources and energy,” said Felicia Federico, program manager for partnerships and translational science at the Institute of Environment and Sustainability. “The report card helped to inform these efforts.”

Gold said the report took about two years to complete. It took a full year to choose which environmental indicators to use because the group thought it was important that each data type be available for the whole county on a regular basis.

Some information was unavailable, however, so both waste and ecosystem health were left with incomplete grades to reflect this lack of data.

“It’s great that they are finally able to finish up this two-year effort,” said Paul Cleland a fourth-year civil and environmental engineering student who is in E3, which stands for Ecology, Economy and Equity, an environmental group on campus. “I hope that there’s more research like it at UCLA and around the world.”

On Tuesday, the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability asked the public for suggestions to improve the county on Twitter using the hashtag #UCLAgradesLA to gather community feedback and suggestions.

Some of proposals may be put into action if they receive funding, but for now, they are gathering community feedback to get ideas that academics might not think of, Gold said.

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