Tips for Living Green
Personal choices about energy, consuming water, disposing waste, eating, transportation and more have differing impacts on the environment. Learn how you can make your impact the smallest, allowing our planet to exist sustainably.
Check out the Green Guide to Living at UCLA for a compilation of sustainable living tips for living at UCLA. You can also find information below!
Using your air conditioner and heater less and properly is the #1 way to save energy…so go BIG with ENERGY SAVINGS by:
- Keeping it OFF. You don’t need to use your thermostat just because you have it. Instead:
- When you’re hot: Use an area fan instead, which uses much less electricity. Close the blinds on hot days to keep the room cool.
- When you’re cold: Put on socks, another sweater, or an extra blanket on your bed. Being dressed warmly will eliminate your need for external heating.
- Shut the blinds: Keeping the blinds closed on warm days keeps the radiation out.
- Energy-Saving SETTINGS. Keep the temperature setting as close to the actual temperature as possible; that way the heating and cooling are used as little as possible but still have your comfort.
- When you’re hot: Set air conditioning as high as is comfortable, 78°F at minimum; 90°F when out of the room.
- When you’re cold: Set heat as low as is comfortable, no higher than 68°F; 55°F when sleeping and out of the room.
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 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 everything. This reduces the amount of “vampire electricity,” the energy appliances suck even when off. Power strips make this more convenient; one switch eliminates all power. Try “smart” power strips that shut down products that go into standby mode.
- -Computers, televisions, and DVRs use the most electricity when off but still plugged in.
CHANGE computer settings. Computer settings are easy to adjust. Some computer electricity-saving options:
- -Enable the standby (aka “sleep”) mode. The typical computer uses 50-150 watts of power, but only 1-6 when in standby/sleep.
- Don’t use a screen saver—these use just as much energy as active use.
- Check your power settings—choose “Energy Saver” modes.
- -Turn OFF. Leaving your computer for 30 minutes or more? Shut it down for significant savings.
- -Try an energy-saving software, which automatically adjusts your settings to conserve without affecting your use. Try a free program like Granola Software.
Turn OFF when you leave the room, even for a few brief minutes. Be sure all room and bathroom lights, etc. are off when you leave; put a note on the door if you forget often.
Replace all incandescent bulbs (typical light bulb you picture as the “idea” icon) with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs); these bulbs use 50–80% less energy! Or better yet, go for LED light bulbs, which use almost 90% less energy! LEDs don’t have the same “warm-up” delay that CFLs do and don’t require special disposal. Remember: CFLs contain mercury and CANNOT go in the trash.
Use COLD water settings. ENERGY STAR estimates that almost 90% of energy used by washing machines goes to heating water. Change the settings to “Bright colors” to get your clothes washing in cold water. And 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. By investing in an inexpensive clothing rack for your room or apartment—you’ll save energy and money!
Turn it OFF. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth and shaving (this saves about 4 gallons of water per minute!). When washing your hands, don’t let water run as you lather with soap.
Take SHORTER SHOWERS. Always opt for a shower over a bath. Bring a waterproof shower timer in with you to measure the length of your shower, and then challenge yourself to shorten your shower!
Wash FULL loads of dishes or laundry. Doing one large load rather than two small ones reduces overall water use.
REUSE. Capture water from showers or after rinsing produce to use for watering house plants.
Check out this water footprint calculator to estimate how much water you use!
Save paper by printing on the other side of used paper. Tired of paying for printing at Powell or Covel? Make good use of the paper after you are done using it by using the other side as scrap paper for brainstorms, notes, math problems, and more! Also, make sure to check the “Eco-Print Double Sided” option when printing, and use “draft” quality settings when you print on campus, in the residence halls, or in your apartment. This can save a lot of paper, ink and money!
Paperless deposits and bills – pay online instead. Do you have a job? Do you get paper paychecks? Save paper by requesting for your paycheck to be deposited straight into your bank account! Also request your monthly bank statements by e-mail instead of through snail mail. If you pay monthly cable or utility bills, switch to online payments, saving you the cost of postage and time from going to a post office box.
Use up all the paper in notebooks. At the end of the quarter, tear out the remaining pieces of binder paper that are left in unfinished spiral bound notebooks, and use them to take notes for your classes the next quarter, or as scrap paper. After you finish those sheets, start taking notes on a laptop to save paper! You can always rent a laptop for 4 hours from several CLICC locations on campus; learn more here.
Take all you care to eat…just eat what you take! When at all-you-can-eat restaurants, it’s always better to take what you know you can eat, and then go back for seconds. Food waste can be significantly reduced by keeping our eyes from being bigger than our stomachs. Same goes for purchasing food at home; it’s easy to prepare too much food and throw away the leftovers. Use meal-planning tools to create the right food portions for you, and only restock your fridge/pantry when it’s running low.
Bring your own bottle or mug. Refrain from buying water bottles, and invest in a Brita filter. Make use of reusable water bottles that you can refill with your own filtered water. Also, make sure to use a reusable mug for tea and coffee—some coffee shops on campus give you a discount for doing so.
BYOB—bag! Reusable bags help reduce plastic and paper needed to make grocery and sundry bags. The EPA estimates that only approximately 11% of all plastic bags and wraps get recycled, so keep a canvas or reusable tote bag in your backpack or purse when you’re out and about to avoid getting another plastic bag.
Use creatively. Use empty cans or jars for pen/ pencil holders, and use old shoe boxes for storage.
Sort your trash. Check out this list to determine where to toss you items on the Hill. As a general rule of thumb: all take-out containers are either recyclable (look for recycling symbols 1-6) or compostable (paper-based products or plastic that says “PLA”). Waxy paper cups (like Coca Cola cups) go in the compost bin and should be separated from their straws and lids, which go in the recycling bins. Condiment packets (like ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.) or chip bags go in the trash, along with film plastics.
Donate. Donate your clothing and/or furniture when you do not need it instead of throwing it away. Organizations like Salvation Army will come and pick up your items for free, and give you a slip that you can use to get a tax deduction. On-campus residents can give donate goods at the end of the year with the Clothes Out program.
These tips help reduce your FOODprint (footprint for food consumption) and support a sustainable planet.
REDUCE meat and dairy consumption. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock are responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (FAO 2006). In addition, it takes nearly 1,500 gallons of water (and some estimates suggest closer to 2,500 gallons) of water to make 1 lb. of beef. Try cutting back on meat and dairy and make one meal a week (or more) vegetarian. It’s easy to do in our dining halls with vegan and vegetarian options at every meal!
Choose LOCALLY GROWN products whenever possible. Locally grown products are transported less distance and are picked closer to peak stages of ripeness—meaning you’re getting the tastiest, freshest items.
Grocery stores label food and produce products with a country of origin; opt for items grown/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. Get 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, etc.
Find ALTERNATIVE METHODS of transportation. Plan out your trips using alternative transportation like bicycling, 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 Saturday mornings from the Hill.
Explore the town WITHOUT A CAR. UCLA Transportation Services developed a list of landmarks and things to see without a car, called U-SEE-LA.
Don’t buy new textbooks. Either buy used books (excellent website: BetterWorldBooks.org also supports charity), or reuse other people’s textbooks and let them use yours for free! This service is available on sites like Bookins.com, PaperBackSwap.com, or SwapTree.com. 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!
Make your own cleaning products. Five 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:
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!
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. <http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0612sp1.htm>