1. One way to reduce emissions and save gas is to not use a car at all.
If distance and circumstance permit, a walk or a bike ride can be healthy and may leave you feeling good about yourself while easing the strain on your pocketbook and engine. Keep in mind that many students have been forced to be creative when trying to find a place to lock their bicycle – parking problems extend to bicycles as well. Motorcycles are very fuel efficient and parking seems to not be a problem for those who drive them.
2. Replace standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home.
According to California’s energy efficiency campaign, Flex Your Power, CFLs use 75 percent less energy than regular bulbs, and they last up to 13 times longer as well. While changing light bulbs may seem like small place to start, if enough people make the change, it will make an impact.
3. Turn off the light.
According to Fullerton College Professor Sean Chamberlin, the simplest solution is sometimes the best. “It might seem trivial, but every time you leave a light on, leave your computer on or let the radio or TV babble unattended, you are needlessly consuming carbon-emitting electricity. It’s a myth that turning lights on and off consumes more electricity than leaving them on. Unless you are leaving for under 10 seconds, it’s more electricity-efficient to turn the lights off.” A possible alternative to leaving the porch light on all night is to install a motion sensor – you’ll only have light when you need it.
4. Something borrowed, something bruised, something rented, something used.
Electronic books – e-books – are possibly the most eco-friendly books around, with computer energy potentially as their only environmental impact. The one major downside? The textbooks that students need are often not available in e-book format. Used textbooks can often be hard to track down for specific classes after a semester begins. Instead, you can rent a textbook online. Chegg.com plants one tree for every book rented, purchased or donated on the site. BookRenter.com and CampusBookRentals.com are two other possible options. Don’t be late returning your books or damage them, or you may have to purchase the book or be saddled with an extra fee.
5. Biodiesel and vegetable oil modification for diesel engines.
For the ambitious environmentalist, old diesel engines provide ample opportunity for clean living and driving. Biodiesel is a fairly simple alternative to gasoline or diesel, because most diesel engines will run fine with most kinds of biodiesel without any modifications. These conversions not only free the user from dependence upon foreign oil, they also burn cleanly. Mercedes and Volkswagen diesel models from the ’80s are popular for biodiesel projects and vegetable-oil conversions, partly because the engines regularly exceed 500,000 miles without being rebuilt. Any diesel engine can be modified to run on vegetable oil.
Once the modification is made by a professional, used oil or straight vegetable oil can be used as fuel. Straight vegetable oil can be purchased at the grocery store, and both kinds of oil produce amazing miles-per-gallon efficiency – often in the vicinity of 100 mpg. The serious vegetable oil enthusiast will find himself or herself testing the used oil with a variety of dangerous chemicals to ensure no damage is being done to their engine. A more practical alternative is to find a person locally that filters the fuel for themselves and have them brew extra for you. Whatever route you take, you will need more help than this article can provide.
6. Recycle bottles, cans and paper.
Traditional recycling is a practical way to lower your carbon footprint. Recycle paper from exams, notes and projects at the end of a semester. Don’t simply throw away that old syllabus or all that math homework – be sure to find a way to recycle it all. Bottles and cans can be taken to the grocery store parking lot recycle center for some extra cash.
7. Go one step farther than recycling by reusing.
With coffee or travel mugs, it’s simple to cut out the middle man and throw less stuff away in the first place. The Sodexho cafeteria is located conveniently on campus and uses biodegradable post-consumer cups and plates, but without recycle bins, who is going to actually recycle them? Most of those cups are thrown in the trash.
Trashing recyclables is the only option for FC students and faculty besides hoarding a used cup all day and recycling it at home. Also, even recycling isn’t quite as clean and environment-friendly as one might think. “While recycled paper is better than styrofoam and plastic, they require energy to produce, transport, and recycle,” Chamberlain says. “Same with cans. Recycling takes energy and energy produces climate-altering CO2. Best to use something that will last longer, cost less money, and save the environment.” Bring your own cup to school if you can.
8. Use a laptop.
Laptop computers are designed to run efficiently from compact batteries, so they are naturally more energy efficient than desktop models. According to National Geographic, laptops can save up to 50 percent more energy than a desktop computer. Turn the computer off when you are finished instead of using sleep mode for extended periods of time to save more energy.
9. Eat slow food.
Fast food restaurants are popular, but their effect on the environment is at least as detrimental as their effect on the people consuming the food. The extensive packaging alone is damaging to the environment, so eat from a kitchen at home or on campus. A single fast food meal often involves a plastic bag, two or three plastic containers, a cup (with a plastic lid and straw) and paper waste from napkins, boxes and wrappers.
10. Go vegetarian or Vegan.
Cutting meat out of one’s diet is the single most impactful thing any one person can do to save energy. Cattle create much of the world’s carbon dioxide pollution, so boycott the beef industry and save the planet. It’s not just cow farts, either – it’s the cost of transporting during every part of the food cycle that places meat on the consumer’s tray. The same is true for all kinds of meat, poultry and eggs.
“Reducing or eliminating meat and meat byproducts (like leather) can save a bundle,” Chamberlin says, “and I’m not talking just money. The CO2 emitted to run the machinery to fertilize and water the grains that are then harvested and transported to feed the cows that are then slaughtered and hacked into pieces for the meat which is then transported to the store where it is packaged in unrecyclable plastic is an extremely carbon-intensive process. In fact, meat production is at the top of the list for carbon-emitting agricultural practices. Even bananas flown from Ecuador produce less CO2 than meat grown locally.”
Here are the steps for how to become vegan.
The Green Movement
In 1676, Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” in a letter to rival Robert Hooke. While we still stand upon giants’ shoulders today, we also squirm beneath the crushing weight of their lumbering stride. Compounded technological advances and decisions have led mankind to burn through Earth’s non-renewable resources, seemingly with reckless abandon and a disregard for our environment.
Fullerton College biology professor Sean Chamberlin addresses environmental issues as nothing less than a serious and imminent threat. “This is not some tree-hugging, bunny-loving hoax trumped up by environmentalists to turn civilization back to the Stone Age,” Chamberlin says. “It’s a very real, very scientifically founded, potentially catastrophic alteration of Earth’s climate.”
Change can begin at home or at Fullerton College. Often, “going green” can actually be cheaper than traditional alternatives, so many of these ideas might be attractive to the discerning college budget as well as conscience. The key to going “green” is as much in awareness as it is in action. This means that thinking about what you do every day is the first step in creating a culture conducive to dynamic change. “Educate yourself and everyone around you,” Chamberlin says. “At every opportunity, learn more about the climate crisis and what it means for your future … Then tell everyone you know. Take part and be a part of the solution!”
The solution will not be nearly enough to completely reverse trends we put into motion, if current evidence shows us anything at all. Recent news about record melting at the polar ice caps is depressing – instead of lessening, melting seems to be growing at an accelerated rate. This doesn’t mean that we should give in or give up; it simply means that we will likely have to deal with the realities of a drastically changed world no matter what we do to change things. Chamberlin knows that turning lights off will help, but that it is only a start, and not an answer.
“I’m a global warming survivalist,” he says, “as much as I am a global warming activist.”