As the human impact on our planet continues to grow, it follows that it is necessary to become more conscientious and active in order to reduce the personal toll you may have on the environment. In the dawn of the 21st century, it is very difficult to rise above the petroleum-based economy.
Yet, it’s still very possible to significantly reduce your personal impact on the environment. Below are some simple New Year’s resolutions to help you lighten your footprint and green your conscience. Most of the resolutions also have additional benefits, such as helping your wallet and improving your physical health.
1. Become conscious of your carbon footprint: A carbon footprint is how much carbon dioxide an individual releases into the atmosphere over the course of a year. Begin to think of everything you use or consume in terms of energy. Basically, a carbon footprint is a way to individually conceptualize how much of an impact you have on the planet. While it is difficult to calculate the exact amount of carbon that is put into the atmosphere, it is fairly easy to be conscious of your consumption. Aim to be more aware of how much gasoline and electricity you use and how much waste you produce.
2. Drive less or ride a bike: Automobiles make up a significant portion of the average American’s carbon footprint. Even if you live close to campus, driving to school over the course of a year emits a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. If you live within three miles of campus, there is absolutely no reason to own a parking permit.
Buy a bike instead. They can be less expensive than a parking permit and don’t expire at the end of a quarter. Bicycles (as well as skateboards and good old-fashioned walking) are wonderful answers to the problem of carbon emissions for personal transportation. Bikes emit no carbon dioxide and consume no petroleum. The bicycle is a fast, convenient, safe and inexpensive means of transportation for broke college students. You will save money on gas and parking permits and will never have to worry about finding a parking space. Also, you’ll get a little extra exercise and fresh air every day.
3. Buy local. Go to the Farmer’s Market: Many people don’t really consider that much of their food (especially fruits and vegetables) must travel a long way to get to them. You may be shocked to see that in Orange County, the oranges in your local supermarket may bear a sticker from Australia.
The longer (and faster) food is transported before being consumed, the more carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. Become conscientious of the country or region of origin of the food you buy. Your safest bet is to buy food from the local Farmer’s Market. It’s every Saturday morning 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the In-N-Out parking lot in the University Town Center.
4. Eat less meat: It takes fewer resources to produce a pound of grain than a pound of steak. It’s simple ecology. In terms of producing greenhouse gases, beef is perhaps the least eco-friendly of all meats. This is sad news for steak lovers. As opposed to poultry and pigs, cows produce large amounts of methane, another major greenhouse gas. Scientists in Japan estimated that producing 2.2 pounds of beef had a warming potential equivalent to driving for several hours.
The health benefits of eating less meat (especially red meat) include less ingestion of saturated fats and cholesterol. Eating more grains introduces more fiber into your diet, which is essential for a healthy digestive system. Meat is also much more expensive than pasta, bread or rice, so eating more grains in place of meat will help your wallet.
5. Recycle more: Each day, tons of reusable materials go to landfills. Most dorms have outdoor recycling bins, and many housing complexes around campus do, too. If you don’t have one, take your recyclables behind Albertsons to receive a little cash for your efforts.
6. Canvas bags: Use a canvas bag (or re-use your given grocery bags) when you go to the supermarket. Albertsons will actually give you a small discount for shopping with a canvas bag. If you shop at Trader Joe’s, bring your own bag to earn a raffle ticket for their monthly drawing.
Canvas bags can also be handy for transporting your belongings when visiting your parents or relatives, or for bringing home leftovers.
7. Energy efficient bulbs: Compact fluorescent light bulbs are 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs. They use one-fourth of the energy for the same amount of light!
Since most reading this article pay rent, pitch the idea to your landlord and you could get free replacement lights that save you money. Environmental events, such as UC Irvine’s Wayzegoose, often give away energy-efficient bulbs for free.
8. Dim your computer screen: You can usually read just fine with the gamma dimmed a little bit. If you invert the colors when using a word processor, it also helps save energy. If you own a Macintosh, press Apple + option + ctrl + 8.
9. Vote Green: Know your candidates! Be an informed citizen. If you need the Cliffs Notes, go to the New York Times online. It has compiled the stances, statements and past actions by the presidential candidates on climate change.
10. Attend Focus the Nation: Focus the Nation is an event simultaneously occurring at over 1,000 institutions across the nation on Jan. 30-31, including UCI. The goal is to spread awareness about global warming and create a dialogue among scientists, environmentalists, politicians and you!
Whether you’re studying science, economics, business, social science or history, there will be something very interesting to offer. Make it your resolution to get involved. It’s a great opportunity to meet people and engage in the movement. Don’t miss it.