With spring just around the corner, Davis’ new trendy color is green – and not just the type of green dye you see on printed money, but the save-the-planet type of green.
By making a few easy changes from making your own cleaning products to keeping a steady hand on the thermostat, you can make a significant difference in the environment. Here are a few tips to consider:
Bring your own bags
Not only are plastic bags made from petroleum, but you can’t recycle them.
“We consume about 500 billion plastic bags annually worldwide, that is about 1 million per minute,” said Darwin Moosavi, chair of the ASUCD Environmental Policy and Planning Commission.
According to the Earth Resource Foundation, it takes up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade. Major stores are beginning to transition to paper, but you can head them off at the pass and buy your own reusable bags.
Make your own cleaning supplies
This will save you money, as well as the energy that goes into making the thousands of chemical-heavy cleaners on the market.
The Campus Center for the Environment (CCE) suggests making an all-purpose cleaner by mixing one-cup baking soda, one-cup ammonia, one- cup white vinegar and one gallon of warm water.
If you’ve got serious mildew to remove, spray the grout with one-cup hydrogen peroxide, and then scrub the paste with one tablespoon of lemon juice and one tablespoon of borax.
Drive the limit – or better yet, bike the limit
It’s not rocket science: The faster you drive, the more gas you consume.
“Try to carpool, and use a larger ethanol ratio in your engine,” said Lauren Labusch, who is currently a Sustainability Intern for Student Housing. “This is available at the Chevron in South Davis. It’s also important to make sure your wheels are properly inflated.”
But don’t forget how bike-friendly Davis is, and that we have the student-run Unitrans bus system.
Buying organic is nice, but think about the massive amount of jet and truck fuel it took to put those Chilean grapes and that Basmati ride from India into your Californian hands.
“One of the best indicators for environmentally conscious food choices is seasonality,” said Will Klein, director for CCE. “Foods grown locally in season, and in the fertile soil of the Central Valley, have less of a need for chemicals and transportation costs.”
Grow your own herbs
If you were looking to get into gardening this year, starting your own herb garden may be the perfect gateway.
“They can be easily grown in pots that students can take with them as they move,” Klein said. “If you have any doubts about your ability to grow herbs, just look at the abundance of rosemary on the sides of roses. Cities plant them because they’re so easy to maintain.”
You can also try the Experimental College Gardens. For $25 a year, you can have up to 200 square feet of soil that will be efficient for many types of vegetables from tomatoes to broccoli.
Reuse those red cups
Although red cups may be an essential to throwing a classic college party, they aren’t entirely environmentally friendly.
“I know it’s a pain to wash them, and some may not survive, but at least try to have people label cups with their names instead of just putting it down and picking up a new one later on,” Moosavi said.
If that fails, you can always have a BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup) party and have guests bring their own. And don’t forget to recycle your beverage containers. Since most red or blue plastic cups are a level 5 recycling, one would need to recycle them at Davis Waste Removal, located on 2727 Second St.
Turn it off
Unplugging power strips when they’re not in use can cut electricity bills. Connected devices, whether they’re on or off, will still suck what’s called standby power.
If you’re looking to buy some energy-efficient appliances, look for the Energy Star Labels – but keep in mind that you can also buy used items.
“The Bargain Barn on campus is a great resource,” Klein said. “They have an incredible range of products – they even once sold a school bus! Davis Freecyle is another place to look; you can even get stuff for free.”
Monitor your thermostat
According to the Consumer Energy Center, each degree you turn the thermostat – up in the summer, down in the winter, that is – saves about three percent in energy costs.
Even better, you can buy a programmable thermostat that limits cooling and heating during the daytime hours.
Use low-flow fixtures
Installing low-flow showerheads, faucets, toilets and other fixtures can save thousands of gallons of water a year. And no, they won’t leave you wishing for more pressure.
The current standard for fixtures is about 2-2.5 gallons per minute.
“You can take shorter showers, or take the same length of showers with a friend,” Labusch said.
For more information on staying green and making your own cleaning products can be found at cce.ucdavis.edu.
VANNA LE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.