Corporations and institutions like the university must be proactive in setting and meeting environmental goals
After spending weeks inside, whether it be because the air quality index is over 200, the temperature is over 100 degrees or because of the global pandemic, it’s not surprising that many college-age students complain about 2020. In fact, some are quick to label it the “worst year” (a title previously held by 2016). However, doing so makes events such as the wildfires seem like something abnormal, or unlikely to occur again, which is simply not the case. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating––the fires and high temperatures well into October are tied to climate change. To quote from a New York Times article about the wildfires, climate change is “smacking California in the face.”
Corporations have a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions; in 2017, 100 firms were responsible for 71% of emissions worldwide. Furthermore, universities, including UC Davis, have a duty to their local communities to enforce environmentally-friendly regulations. While UC Davis has taken great strides towards creating a sustainable campus, it fell short of meeting its zero-waste goal for 2020. California has the fifth largest economy in the world, and the UC system, as a state institution, can and should make efforts to reduce waste.
While actions by major corporations and institutions more directly impact the acceleration or deceleration of climate change, it is important to remember that our actions matter. As students, we may not have the financial ability to install solar panels on our rented apartments or buy an electric car, but through simple actions every day, we can live more sustainably and decrease our carbon footprint.
Now that we spend most of our time at home, running the air conditioning all day is a regular occurrence, especially during a heat wave. By consequence, electricity bills might be much higher now than in a typical year. Air conditioners account for about 12% of home energy use in the U.S. and can range from 2-27% of a household’s energy costs, varying by region, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Therefore, making an effort to limit air conditioning, even by just increasing the minimum temperature on AC settings, can have a positive impact on both monthly fees as well as the environment.
Eliminating our use of disposable masks can also make a significant difference. COVID-19 has caused a monthly estimated use of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves globally, leading to increased pollution and waste. If we stitched together every disposable mask produced and projected to be produced in 2020, they alone could cover Switzerland. Increased production of single-use plastics as a result of the pandemic has also caused greater ocean pollution, hurting sea animals. Sea turtles often mistake plastic waste (as well as masks and gloves) for jellyfish, and birds can easily get caught in the straps of a face mask. Cutting the straps or switching to a reusable mask is a simple way to help wildlife.
Making conscious consumer choices is also important for leading an eco-friendly lifestyle. In Davis, especially, sustainable shopping is relatively accessible with the many local second-hand stores and the farmers market. Patronizing eco-friendly businesses or thrift shopping can decrease your contribution to waste that occurs in the fast fashion industry, and reducing your consumption of red meat can cut your carbon footprint in half, according to National Geographic.
While we acknowledge that it might be challenging to implement all of these suggestions into your routine, we urge you to consider your impact on the environment and to make conscious decisions to live more sustainably. As the election approaches, voting for representatives that support science and understand the gravity of climate change is one of the most impactful things we can do to contribute to creating a greener planet.
Written by: The Editorial Board