How to be sustainable in Berkeley

compost
Sonia Brin/File

The very first observance of Earth Day took place April 22, 1970, with the aim of putting environmental issues into the national spotlight. The holiday was monumental in laying the foundation for modern environmental movements. To commemorate Earth Day, which was celebrated last Friday, we at the Clog composed a collection of tips that’ll help you go green without going broke.

Reduce
One way to reduce consumption is to watch what you eat. The United States produces enough food to feed our entire population twice over, be sure to eat just what you need, and aim for eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Buy from local producers when you can. Also, avoid processed, prepackaged foods and disposable utensils. Those empty calories just pile onto your waistline and the disposable items produce a lot of unnecessary waste. Avoid both. The Earth will thank you, as will your jeans.

Reducing your consumption of electricity is another simple way to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Use natural light when you can, install compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), unplug anything with an LED (light-emitting diode) that glows even after it’s powered off and don’t use the heater when you’re not in your home. Your energy bill and your carbon footprint will shrink.

This last tip of reduction involves reducing your water waste. Take showers instead of baths, which use up much more water. Also, take short showers and hold your roommates accountable for the lengths of their showers. If you’re able to eat dinner, complete three homework assignments and finish an entire video game while your roommate David is still in the shower, then don’t be afraid to shut that down. Hurricanes use less water than he does.

Reuse

You should always reuse and repurpose things that you’ve already purchased. Consumerism is wasteful, and Mother Nature silently cringes when she sees you buying your 18th iPhone. Do you really need that gold chrome hover board when you already have both a red and blue one? No, probably not. Save the forests from the next hover board fire by donating the money and walking to school, instead.

You can also reduce waste by donating or selling items you don’t use. Throwing something away should always be your last option. Get creative — most items can be used more than once. Paper bags can be used as scratch paper, cardboard boxes can be used to ship items and glass jars can be used for food storage. There’s an endless number of things you could do with what you’re throwing out right now.

Buying secondhand is another interesting way to repurpose items. Before you buy something brand new, consider whether you can buy it used or not. Of course, that doesn’t apply to every item. Secondhand electronics? Yes, you can probably buy used or refurbished ones for cheap. Secondhand furniture? Yes — besides, vintage fixtures are in. Secondhand underwear? We wouldn’t necessarily advise purchasing that used.

Recycle

Our campus reminds us of the ease of recycling daily. Berkeley’s one of few places where you have to actually think about which trash can to put garbage into. Is it compost or landfill? The world may never know, but luckily, there are pictures on the cans themselves to help us decide.

Not all items can be recycled in the same way, however. Some items emit powerful contaminants that can pollute water sources and the atmosphere, so they can’t be introduced to land fills. Steel, paint, electronic waste, batteries, tires and other things that contain potentially hazardous materials must be disposed of at special locations. If you’re ever unsure of how to throw something away or whether it can be used again, search online for local waste processors.

Composting is a great way to recycle old foodstuffs if you have a yard to tend to. There are many guides online on how to make the best compost for specific plant types. Composting doesn’t have to be smelly, dirty or attractive to pests — it can be completely clean and natural. If you think composting is stinky and gross, then you haven’t been to the gym with any one of us from the Clog.

Care for the Earth every day with these easy, environmentally friendly tips that’ll help you reduce, reuse and recycle.

Contact Karina Pauletti at [email protected].