Tips for Living Green

Your environmental impact is affected by your personal choices in energy and water consumption, waste disposal, transportation, food, and more. Learn how to live sustainably and reduce your footprint.

Check out the sustainable living tips below or visit Green Guide to Living at UCLA!



The best way to save energy is by reducing your air conditioner and heater use.

Not sure how to work your thermostats? Check out the videos made by Action Research Team and PowerSave interns for your building below.

Electronics and Appliances


Turn it off: A habit that should eventually become second nature. All appliances and electronics should be kept off when not in use, even for short amounts of time.

Unplug: This reduces the amount of “vampire electricity,” that energy appliances suck even when they are turned off. Computers, televisions, and DVRs use the most electricity when off but still plugged in. Power strips make this more convenient by using one switch to eliminate all power. Try smart power strips that shut down products that go into standby mode.

Change your settings: Adjust your computer settings to energy-saving options
  •  Enable standby (“sleep”) mode. A typical computer uses 50-150 Watts of power, but only 1-6 W when on standby.
  •  Don’t use a screensaver – these use just as much energy as active use.
  •  Check your power settings – choose “Energy Saver” modes.
  •  Turn it off – Leaving your computer for 30 minutes or more? Shut it down for significant savings.
  •  Use an energy-saving software that automatically adjusts your settings without affecting your use.



Turn off the lights: When you leave your room, be sure all lights are off, even if you will only be gone for a few minutes. Put a note on the door if you forget often.

Upgrade: Replace all incandescent bulbs with LED light bulbs, which use almost 90% less energy. A CFL bulb uses 50–80% less energy. LEDs don’t have the same “warm-up” delay that CFLs do and don’t require special disposal. CFLs contain mercury and CANNOT go in the trash.


Use cold water: ENERGY STAR estimates that almost 90% of energy used by washing machines goes to heating water. Change the settings to “Bright colors” to wash your clothes in cold water. To increase effectiveness, buy laundry detergent suited for cold water washing.

Skip the dryer: Try air drying! Clothes dryers require a significant amount of energy to heat up, and they shorten the life of your clothes. Invest in an inexpensive clothing rack for your room or apartment to save energy and money!

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Turn it off: Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, shaving, or lathering your hands. This saves about 4 gallons of water per minute! Also turn off the water when you lather during a shower for even greater water savings.

Take shorter showers: Always opt for a shower over a bath. Use a waterproof shower timer and challenge yourself to shower as quickly as you can.

Wash full loads: Washing larger loads of laundry and dishes saves water (and electricity) by reducing the number of loads.

Reuse: Capture water from showers or from rinsing produce, then use it to water house plants!

Check out this water footprint calculator to estimate how much water you use!

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Reduce trash

Use both sides: Save paper by always using both sides. Print double-sided whenever possible, and if you have single-sided sheets, use the other side for notes, brainstorming, math problems, etc. Print multiple pages or PowerPoint slides on each sheet of paper. Select eco-friendly settings on the computer and printer to save ink, paper, and money. Use all pages of notebooks; if you have extra pages, tear them out and use them for other classes.

Go paperless: Save paper by requesting to receive your paycheck directly into your bank account. Reduce your paper mail by switching to email and unsubscribing to mailing lists you don’t want. Save time and money by handling bank statements and bills online.

Know your stomach: Pace yourself when at dining halls by taking only what you know you can eat and going back for seconds later. At home, purchase and cook appropriate portions to reduce food waste.

Purchase wisely: Choose products that have the least amount of packaging waste. Purchase food from the bulk section of supermarkets, combine online purchases for fewer shipments. Choose items that are recyclable or compostable, or made of post-consumer recycled waste.



Bring your own bottle or mug: Instead of purchasing bottled water, save money by investing in a water filter and a reusable water bottle. Filtered water fountains can be found all over UCLA! Drink your coffee and tea from a reusable tumbler and receive a discount at UCLA coffee shops.

BYOBag!: The EPA estimates that only about 11% of all plastic bags and wraps get recycled. Bring a reusable bag with you on shopping trips instead of using plastic bags.

Use creatively:Upcycle your items. Use empty cans or jars for pen and pencil holders, and use old shoe boxes for storage.

Divert Your Waste: Recycle and Compost

Sort your trash: Check out this guide to waste sorting on the Hill. As a general rule of thumb, most  take-out containers are compostable because they are paper-based or are bioplastics made of plant material. If it says “PLA,” it’s compostable! Condiment packets and chip bags go to landfill.

Donate: At the end of the year, donate your clothing and/or furniture instead of throwing it away. Organizations like Salvation Army can come and pick up your items for free, and give you a slip that you can use to get a tax deduction. The Clothes Out program accepts donations in large orange bins that can be found in residential areas at the end of the school year.

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Food in tote

These tips help reduce your foodprint and support a sustainable planet.

Eat less meat and dairy: The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock are responsible for 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions (FAO 2006). In addition, it takes more than 1,500 gallons of water to make 1 pound of beef. Cut back on meat and dairy and make one meal (or more) per week plant-based. Delicious vegan and vegetarian options are available during every meal in every dining hall!

Buy local: Locally grown products are transported a shorter distance and are picked closer to peak stages of ripeness. This means that you’re getting the tastiest, freshest products. Grocery stores label food and produce products with a country of origin. Opt for items grown and/or produced in California (or at least in the USA, Mexico, or Canada).
  •  Farmers Markets are great places to find local, seasonal produce in your area while getting to know the farmer growing your food.
  •  Community Supported Agriculture programs are also great ways to get boxes of fresh, diverse produce on a weekly basis.

Buy organic whenever possible. Organic products are grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, which reduces the amount of chemical pollution ending up in our soils and water.

Seek other certified sustainable products. There are many third party certifications that identify products or companies meeting ethical or ecological standards, including but not limited to:
  •  Fair Trade Certified
  •  Rainforest Alliance Certified
  •  Food Alliance Certified
  •  AGA Grassfed
  •  USDA Organic
  •  and more!

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Bike 2

Use alternative methods of transportation. Plan out your trips using alternative transportation like bicycling, taking the bus, rollerblading, walking, etc. You’ll get your exercise and get to where you want to go all in one! Try out the BruinBus Grocery Shuttle, the Supermarket Shuttle, to pick up groceries on Saturdays and Sundays from the Hill.

Explore LA without a car. UCLA Transportation Services developed a list of landmarks and things to see without a car, called U-SEE-LA.

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UCLA Thrift Store

Don’t buy new textbooks. Either buy used books (excellent website: also supports charity), or reuse other people’s textbooks and let them use yours for free! This service is available on sites like,, or You could also rent books through some of your favorite book purchasing sites (like Chegg or Amazon). Not only can you stay green by doing this, but you can also save a lot of money.

Go green with school supplies. Buy recycled products from the Green Corner at the UCLA Store. They sell recycled Post-Its, notebooks, binders, pencils, and more. Always purchase 100% recycled content paper; the higher the % of post-consumer content the better.

Shop second hand stores. Los Angeles is home to tons of excellent thrift, consignment, and vintage stores that can offer anyone great options for second-hand clothing and accessories. And there are dozens close to UCLA. Buying pre-loved items decreases your environmental footprint in a BIG way because it saves huge amounts of resources used in producing new items, and it saves you a lot of money!

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Natural Cleaning

Make your own cleaning productsFive basic ingredients serve as the buildings blocks for many safe, home cleaning needs: baking soda, borax, soap, washing soda, and white vinegar or lemon juice. Check out some of these resources to make your own cleaning products for laundry, dishes, glass cleaning and more:
  •  Ecocycle’s Eco-Friendly Cleaning Recipes
  •  The Daily Green: The Easiest Green Cleaning Recipes You Can Make at Home

Dispose of cleaning products at a hazardous waste collection center. It is illegal to dump toxic chemical down the sink or in the storm drain. Check out the S.A.F.E. Collection Center on campus here at UCLA!

Learn more about the harms of chemical cleaning agents and how to dispose of them.

Housing & Hospitality Initiatives Home

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See the Student Welfare Commission’s excellent magazine Total Wellness “The Green Edition” featuring tips like these, water bottle comparisons, organic food information, and more! Adapted from the original article by Jennifer Danesh in Total Wellness “The Green Edition” Volume 10, Winter 2010.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2006). Livestock impacts on the environment. Spotlight.