UCSF Sustainability Stories

Ana Toepel, Green Impact, January 2019

LivingGreen in 2019: Nine Ways to Up Your Green Game This Year

Happy New Year!  When the new year rolls around we tend to think about changes we can make in our lives during the year ahead. This year you might consider adding some ways to live greener to your list of new year’s intentions. This piece offers nine suggestions for implementing green practices in 2019.

#1: Get LivingGreen Certified

If you work at UCSF, this year you can join the many green event planners, offices, labs, and clinics that are already certified. LivingGreen certification is a great way to support UCSF in achieving its zero waste and carbon neutrality goals, engage the entire team or office in green practices, and have fun while being more environmentally-friendly at work. Go here to find out how to get started.

#2: Purchase ENERGY STAR Products

If it’s time to buy a new appliance, computer, lighting component, or lab-grade refrigerator or freezer, you can choose ENERGY STAR equipment and achieve substantial energy savings. ENERGY STAR products typically use anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent less energy each year than a non-energy efficient equivalent. Read this story to find out more about making ENERGY STAR purchases. A new UCSF policy requires selection of Energy Star products when available.

#3: Take Alternative Transportation

Walking, biking, taking public transportation, and utilizing UCSF’s alternative transportation options are all easy ways to cut back on carbon emissions. Check out the Transportation Services website to learn about the many ways UCSF can help you do this. Maybe you’ll be inspired by the efforts of the Medical Facilities Management Team to bike more often. And be sure to participate in the local Bike to Work events this May!

#4: Turn Off and Unplug Gadgets and Appliances

Though this seems obvious, we all forget at times and might not realize what a difference it makes. If a piece of equipment is not being used, turn it off. Labs can identify equipment that doesn’t need to run 24/7 and use a timer for turning it on and off. Even when our appliances and electronics are turned off or in sleep mode, they still suck energy (“vampire energy”). The simple solution is to unplug whenever something isn’t in use or use a “smart” power strip that automatically shuts off when devices are inactive.

#5: Offset Your Travel and Carbon Footprint

This year consider purchasing carbon offsets, which compensate for your personal carbon emissions by supporting a project that provides greenhouse gas reductions. You can do this with online retailers such as Cool Effect, a Bay Area company that allows individuals to support a range of projects that reduce carbon and provide a social impact. You’ve probably heard that air travel creates more carbon emissions than other forms of travel (almost .9 metric tons for New York to San Francisco round-trip), so if you are flying in 2019, buy offsets for your flights’ emissions. You’ll be surprised at how inexpensive it is!

#6: Choose Organic, Local Food 

Honor your health and the health of the planet by choosing local, organic produce and food products. A 30-year Rodale Institute study shows that organic agriculture can reduce carbon dioxide, save energy, and slow climate change. And, with the average piece of produce traveling 1,500 miles, buying locally-grown produce is a game-changer. Shop at your nearby Farmer’s Market (see guide here) or UCSF’s Parnassus or Mission Bay Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays (find info here).

#7: Compost Food and Yard Waste

Recycling has become second nature for most of us, but composting is still a less common practice. As of last spring, about 40% of UCSF campus waste sent to the landfill could have been composted, with food waste being the greatest contributor to that number. Remember to put food in the compost bin not in the garbage; in landfills food waste produces methane gas emissions, which are more potent than carbon dioxide. At UCSF green compost bins are included at each waste disposal area on campus. You can learn more about the benefits of compost here. Don’t forget to share excess catered food with students, sign up for Food4UCSFstudents

#8: Run on Renewables

If it’s an option for you, consider going solar at home or buying an electric car in 2019. UCSF participates in the Bay Area SunShares program to offer discounts to its community members for home solar installations; you can go here to learn more about the program and find out how to register. You could also make the switch to a gas-free and zero emissions vehicle this year. Check out this information on the benefits of electric vehicles. 

#9: Consume Less

When considering the mountains of trash generated during the holidays and in our national parks during the government shutdown, we can all consider buying less of everything. Focusing on “quality not quantity” could be a new green way of thinking. Other ideas include hanging onto your cellphone for more than two years. The production of a single cell phone creates as much carbon as running a refrigerator for a year. Buying less clothes will reduce the sheer volume of textile waste and reduce environmental impacts of the textile industry.