The Santa Clara
April 25, 2019
Near every trash can on Santa Clara’s campus is a recycling receptacle, and usually there’s an accompanying compost bin too. Sensors in some buildings monitor natural light in order to minimize energy usage. Over 85 percent of the campus is irrigated with recycled water.
These efforts, as well as future initiatives, has lead Santa Clara to be named No. 12 out of 269 schools as a 2018 “Cool School,” by Sierra, a national magazine of the Sierra Club.
Santa Clara’s sustainability efforts were evident my first two years living on campus. But it has been more difficult to keep a smaller carbon footprint off campus as an upperclassman. Luckily, I have friends in green places who helped me create a list of easy ways to reduce one’s environmental damage.
1. It takes 200 years to decompose a single straw, so ask waiters to forgo one in your drink. If you simply cannot live without a straw, buy a collapsible, reusable keychain version on Amazon for $12. You can keep it in your purse or with your car keys.
2. Set a goal to pick up one piece of trash on the ground per day. When litter is on sidewalks or along curbs, it may get washed down into storm drains during a heavy rain. The storm drain litter then gets into the nearest river or ocean, which can pollute the water and cause animals to come into contact with items.
3. If you’re getting food to go, don’t get plastic cutlery; use what you have at home. Better yet, eat at the establishment and avoid using a disposable container altogether.
4. As hard as it may be for all you party animals, avoid using red solo cups! Or just put your name on one and reuse it all day/night.
5. Either say no to plastic bags at a store or bring your own reusable bags. If you end up getting a bag, use it as an interim recycling bin or recycling bin bag liner.
6. Wash out plastic or glass food containers before putting them in the recycling or, better yet, use them again as tupperware. Recyclables with food waste in them cannot be recycled and are disposed of in landfills.
There are different types of plastics, some of which are harsher on the environment than others. There is a rating on the bottom of plastic goods that sits in the middle of the recycle symbol ranging from one to six.
Items with a lower number are easier to recycle, so if you do not plan on reusing plastics, try to avoid buying those with high numbers, as they are harder to break down.
7. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Consider using bamboo toothbrushes, as plastic toothbrushes are almost as bad as straws and are unrecyclable.
8. Eat less meat. Going vegan is not for everyone, but limiting livestock intake in any form reduces your carbon footprint, considering global meat production is responsible for seven to eight percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Even if this is as little as limiting your meat intake to one meal a day or week— anything helps.
9. Compost! The City of Santa Clara does provide compost pickup services by providing residents with a yard waste bin. For on campus residents, you can rent a compost bin to have in your room. If you return it at the end of the year, you do not have to pay.
10. Limit nut consumption, especially almonds and walnuts. Although they’re all the rage as a healthy snack and milk substitute, which has increased the profitability of production. But it takes one gallon of water to produce a single almond and almost five gallons to produce a single walnut.
For context, with each flush of a toilet about 1.6 gallons of water are used, and running the dishwasher uses eight gallons. The U.S. produces 70 percent of almond exports in the world, and it is estimated California almond production uses enough water to provide almost three years worth of water to all of Los Angeles.
But have no fear, there are other dairy free nut milks people can make or buy. Coconut milk serves as a great alternative because it does not require a lot of water and coconut trees filter carbon dioxide which helps us breathe in clean oxygen.
Hemp milk is another alternative because it does not use many pesticides, and it filters out carbon dioxide. The entire plant can be used, so there’s less waste.
College can be stressful, but it is important to keep these tips in mind and actively carry them out. That way we can help make sure our planet thrives for years to come.
June Kissel is a senior public health major with a biology minor.