UCSF Sustainability Stories

By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

8 Green Resolutions for 2021

Good bye 2020. Hello, 2021. May 2021 be full of health, ease, and climate action.

With a new administration and COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, this is the perfect time to reassess your priorities, goals, and lifestyle. In the midst of commitments to exercise more and watch less Netflix, with the climate crisis intensifying, consider making a resolution that honors the Earth and makes it a healthier place. Below are eight green resolutions to consider.

Let’s start with three related to COVID-19:

1. Use reusable, washable face masks
Yes, stay safe and wear masks. But when possible, commit to using a reusable, washable facemask. A glut of discarded single-use masks, many made of plastic are washing up on shorelines and littering the seabed. The ocean and sea mammals will thank you.

2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
With COVID-19, we are all more aware of the need to keep our homes clean and safe. However, according to Gail Lee, UCSF Sustainability Director, disinfecting every surface only exposes one to toxic chemicals unnecessarily. Commit to using 70 percent alcohol or choose one of the products vetted by the Environmental Working Group.

3. Recycle your e-waste
Office or home items requiring a power source, such as phones, computers, printers, and keyboards, are considered e-waste. Due to toxic components, they can’t be thrown in the trash. And because they contain valuable metals that can be reused, recycling your e-waste is the best option. However, it is important to recycle it properly. Be sure your recycler is an accredited e-steward. For more details, see Repair, Reuse, Recycle: UCSF Takes Steps to Reduce E-Waste and the A, B,Cs of e-waste. In addition, explore UCSF’s Equipment Reuse Program, which allows employees to claim secondhand, working electronics that would otherwise be discarded.

Here are a few resolutions that focus on taking climate action:

4. Ask your state and federal representatives to take climate action
An impactful resolution is to contact your senator, congressmember, or assemblymember once a month about the importance of climate action. Citizen’s Climate Lobby offers a tool that allows you to sign up for a monthly calling campaign that provides instructions and suggestions for how to respectfully urge climate action. 350 Bay Area also provides resources for taking action.

5. Go tree-free with your paper products
Commit to going tree-free with your paper products. I recently tried toilet paper made from bamboo from Costco after learning that the Kirkland brand was made of virgin fibers from the Canadian boreal forest. A helpful resource is NRDC’s 2019 report, “The Issue with Tissue: How Americans are Flushing Forests Down the Toilet”, a buyer’s guide to the sustainability of at-home tissue products.

Finally, a few things you can do at home:

6. Live green at home
The Office of Sustainability has expanded its LivingGreen certification program to include the home, taking advantage of the fact that many UCSF employees are currently working remotely. Get your home certified. It’s fun, might save you money, and if you complete the certification process, UCSF will offset one ton of your carbon footprint.

7. Eat more sustainably
Another easy resolution is to commit to eating more sustainably. You can eat less meat, shop more often at your local farmer’s market, or join a community-supported agriculture program that will deliver farm-fresh food weekly.

The Ultimate Guide to Bay Area Farmers’ Markets provides a list of the Bay Area’s markets.

8. Use zero carbon transport
Ride a bike to work once a week; find an alternative to driving solo to work; or buy an electric vehicle (EV). These are some of the options for greening your transportation. If you are considering the purchase of an EV, there are significant savings if you buy a used one; Edmonds provides a good summary of the pros and cons of a used EV and provides a list of the top used EVs. Many utilities offer rebates for EVs and some of the programs cover used vehicles.