SCU CCA Refract House US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon
This world is worth trying for.  The California Coast. Credit Ross Ruecker
This world is worth trying for. The California Coast. Credit Ross Ruecker
This is Green building, after all it's a bridge in nature. Credit to dkon on flickr.
This is Green building, after all it's a bridge in nature. Credit to dkon on flickr.
concept  ::  What Can You Do  ::

Overview

To the students of Team California, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ aren’t just words: they are a call to action. As broad and overused as these terms may have become, they represent a profound and obvious truth: we have to be smarter about the way we live on this planet. That starts with doing something about it.

Below, broken in what we consider the five branches of sustainability, are tips to live a more sustainable lifestyle that sharpen your connection with the planet. There are also special kids and homeowner sections to peruse.

Energy

Even though energy can be hard to see, it comes at a real cost, using limited resources and producing pollution. Even in a solar-powered home energy efficiency is still important: every bit we use is energy we can’t give back to the grid, offsetting other homes’ use. Buying efficient appliances is important, but so is how we use them.

•Put your entertainment system and speakers on one power strip and turn it off when you’re not around. This way you eliminate phantom loads.

•Buy the most efficient appliances available when you upgrade. If you have electric hot water, consider one of the new heat pump water heaters

•Insulate your hot water tank, and any exposed pipes. It’s cheap and easy

•Set your thermostat moderately, and set it to turn off when you are at work, when you’re asleep, and when you go on vacation.

•Install a summer ventilation fan for your attic, or consider insulating your attic more.

•Use your own passive solar! Open south facing blinds on winter days, and close them in the heat of summer.

•Wash clothes in warm or cold water whenever possible. It’s usually just as effective!

•Set your dishwasher to air dry instead of electric dry.

Water

Clean water is a limited resource, especially in some areas. Water’s relatively low cost belies how important conservation can be. The average American uses 80-100 gallons a day directly, and much more than that if you consider the water used to make food, materials, and energy.

• Use a low-flow shower head and install low-flow aerator caps on faucets

• Upgrade your toilet to a high-efficiency model, especially if it’s old. Newer toilets use a fraction of the water. For an interim fix, you can put a bag of gravel in your toilet tank to reduce water use.

• Always run full loads in your dishwasher, just as you should for your clothes washer. Do not pre-wash dishes, and fill the sink rather than running the tap if you do.

• Irrigate your lawn and garden sparingly, and always in the cool part of the day or at night. Install a rain sensor if you don’t have one.

Consumption and Waste

Consider how much stuff passes through our hands: water bottles, bags, coffee cups, batteries, paper, and a thousand more items – all made of valuable materials and then thrown ‘away’. Nature recycles everything, and we will not be sustainable until we are doing the same. But recycling is not enough – reduction and reuse are more critical.

• Skip the bottled water: save money, energy and resources by using a reusable water bottle. Do the same with a coffee mug.

• Recycle everything! And be sure to collect and dispose of e-waste properly

• Avoid buying things you don’t really need. Consider what is likely to end up becoming junk

• Reduce printing utilize digital media, use scrap paper, and print double-sided

• Buy used whenever you can! Secondhand shops and craigslist are good places to Save money and resources. And try to donate or sell items you no longer need.

Transport

Personal transportation is one of the greatest luxuries of American living, but this comes at great cost: the US passenger vehicle fleet guzzles about 10% of the world’s annual refined petroleum production. Driving an efficient vehicle can help a lot, but how you drive and how much you drive are even more significant.

• Drive less! Try bundling trips, carpooling, biking, or using public transit.

• Drive a bit slower on the highway. And easy on the acceleration everywhere else

• Choose based on efficiency for your new or used car purchase.

• Keep your car tuned up: tires, air filter, and other maintenance save gas and money.

Food

The food we choose to eat has a profound effect on our environmental impact, and how secure and robust our food future is. Food that is highly processed and travels long distances uses a lot more energy. But ultimately we need food that is sustainably harvested, maintains topsoil health, and uses less water and pesticides and fertilizer.

•Buy local, or nearly local, and least-processed. Establish connections with a CSA, or a farmer’s market, or just try to know your source.

•Eat less meat! Meat costs much more energy, land, and water to produce. Chicken and sustainably-harvested fish are better choices than beef.

•Buy grass-fed beef, free-range animal products, and organic foods, but know these labels can be misleading. Educate yourself!

•Grow your own food at home! Guaranteed fresh and with no transport!

Go Explore

If you're looking for inspiration, take a step outside and enjoy the world we are a part of. In the fast pace society of iPhones, texting, global news, and 200 mph cars, it is easy to forget what is around us. Exploit any opportunities to go outdoors and adventure. Nowadays, we are so hyperwired and inter-connected that is only in nature that we can actually be ourselves. This is why we choose sustainability: to keep this world around, and to keep ourselves as part of it.