UCSF Sustainability Stories


Ana Toepel, Green Impact, January 2020


Eight Ways to Commit to Personal and Planetary Health in 2020

The New Year is here, and along with it, a new decade. A new decade often signals a shift to new perspectives, new opportunities, and new priorities. This is the perfect time to make changes, set yourself on a new course, or increase the impact of the work you’re doing. And with the climate crisis intensifying and UCSF aiming to reach zero waste this year, why not go big with your resolutions to help make the Earth a healthier place?  Here are eight commitments to consider:

#1- Take climate action
The 2019 Lancet Countdown Report emphasizes the need for health professionals to get more involved in addressing climate change and its impacts. And speakers at UCSF’s launch event for the report urged the community to support the young people who are leading the charge for more urgency and effective action in the world’s response to climate change. Check out 350 Bay Area to learn how you can take action. If you’re a UCSF student, join the interdisciplinary student organization Human Health and Climate Change.

#2- Get LivingGreen certified
If you work at UCSF, certify your workspace and support UCSF in achieving its zero waste and carbon neutrality goals. You will feel good and have fun engaging the entire team or office in green practices and being more environmentally-friendly at work. Join the 188 green event planners, offices, labs, and clinics that are already certified at UCSF. The process is easy to follow, and there are different levels of certification to ensure that everyone can succeed. Go here to find out how to get started.

#3- Be better at the bin
As we shared in a story last year, the state of recycling in the U.S. has many challenges, one being people sorting their waste incorrectly. Even the most conscientious recyclers among us likely make mistakes and can be “Better at the Bin,” which is what San Francisco’s Recology encourages in their zero waste campaign. Make sure you have and follow the most current recycling guidelines for your location. For sorting waste better at UCSF, check out the helpful information from UCSF’s Recycling and Waste Reduction program.

#4- Make recycling the final ‘R’
If you really want to rise to the zero waste challenge, consider making recycling the last option. First, reduce your consumption, and you’ll have less waste to deal with in the first place. Check out this article that provides four questions to ask before buying something new. When shopping or taking food to go, you can refuse plastics, which are either difficult or impossible to recycle: refuse single-use plastics, plastic bags, and plastic water bottles. Reuse any items possible as much as you can before you send them to the bin (e.g., disposable utensils and cups, plastic bags, jars, bottles, and to go containers). When you’ve exhausted the other options, then recycle. Check out Plastic Pollution Coalition’s 4Rs Pledge to join a global community saying no to single-use plastic.

#5- Take alternative transportation
Cut back on the carbon emissions you create by driving less—instead, walk, bike, use public transportation, and utilize UCSF’s alternative transportation options. Your health will be positively impacted, too, by getting out of the car more often! UCSF’s Transportation Services has many ways to help you do this. If you’re part of the UCSF community and you haven’t yet taken UCSF’s all-electric, zero emissions shuttle buses that travel to its campuses and facilities, try riding this year. If you’re interested in traveling more by bike, connect with the group UCSF Bikes! for tips and support.

#6- Up your energy efficiency
If you work in one of UCSF’s labs, you can achieve enormous energy and monetary savings by replacing your old, energy hogging freezers with new, energy efficient ones. The Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) Freezer Rebate Program offers rebates for exchanging an old ULT for an ENERGY STAR model, selecting ENERGY STAR for a new freezer purchase, or keeping a new or old freezer set to -70°C. In other UCSF workspaces and at home, you can increase your energy efficiency by choosing ENERGY STAR products and by turning off appliances and electronics when not in use. Go a step further, too, and unplug them—you’ll avoid vampire energy, where items continue to suck energy even when they’re turned off or in sleep mode.

#7- Choose sustainable food
UCSF supports sustainable food and you can, too: make your food choices local, organic, humane, and eco-friendly. Your health and the health of the planet will thank you! The Eat Well Guide makes it easy to find sources of sustainable food near you. Shop at UCSF’s Parnassus Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm (the Mission Bay market is on hiatus due to construction) or at your nearby Farmers’ Market. Residents of Mission Bay can purchase from many of the same vendors at the Thrive City Farmers’ Market held Sundays from 8am to 1pm at the Chase Center.
Support local farmers even more by joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.

#8- Go chemical-free
UCSF is working to reduce toxins in the environment, and you can, too, by avoiding certain chemicals and products that are known to be harmful to health. The Center for Environmental Health has a wealth of resources to help you learn more about products with toxic chemicals. One thing to avoid is single-use foodware that has PFAS chemicals (known as “forever chemicals” and linked to cancer and other serious health issues); check foodware products for their contents in this database and use reusable items whenever possible. Also watch out for bath and beauty products that have hidden toxic chemicals; the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics provides information to guide you in your product choices.