Personal Sustainability on a Budget

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By Fernanda Arao, Financial Wellness Peer Advisor

Being green is a big part of the Aggie identity. After all, UC Davis is the 3rd most sustainable college campus in the world! We aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Our world-class researchers work hard to create solutions for modern issues like global warming, clean energy, and sustainable agriculture. But it can be hard to see where you might contribute to these ambitious goals while trying to live within your means.

It is commonly thought that an environmentally friendly lifestyle is costly, so it may come as a surprise to hear that personal sustainability and saving money often go hand-in-hand. You can still make sustainability a priority without increasing your expenses!

So what are some ways you can contribute while maintaining your budget?

AMP UP YOUR WARDROBE

We are very lucky to be living in a time where thrifted clothes are in vogue. Thrift shopping helps curb the environmental cost of the production and shipment of a new item. It allows you to not only save money but also give a home to clothes that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill. For example, the Aggie Reuse Store has prevented 8,100 pounds of usable items from ending up in landfills.

GROCERY SHOP PLASTIC-FREE

100 billion plastic bags are used every year in America. Many end up in our oceans, where they harm and kill marine life. They take centuries to decompose. Plus, they’re ten cents apiece. Canvas bags are a small investment, but they are sturdy and last longer so you can take them along to every shopping trip. To increase your impact, opt for plastic-free food packages and switch out single-use plastic water bottles for a reusable one.

ALTERNATIVES TO DRIVING

You can cut down on air pollution and gas expenses by using public transportation or bikes to get around. As the most bike-friendly community in the United States, Davis is designed to prioritize bike paths to facilitate road sharing. If you need to take the Unitrans, undergraduate students with Student ID cards can ride the buses for free, while grad students get a discount on bus passes. You can also participate in one of the TAPS carpooling programs. One less vehicle on the road means fewer greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere!

LOWER YOUR ELECTRIC BILL

In 2018, only 11% of electricity in the United States was generated using clean energy. Lowering your usage—such as turning off lights and unplugging electronics when you aren’t using them—is one way to lessen the consumption of non-renewable energy sources like coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Another method is switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED or CFL light bulbs. These are much more energy-efficient and last longer. Coincidentally, these tips can significantly decrease your monthly energy bill!

USE WHAT YOU HAVE

Producing almost anything creates pollution. Similarly, buying anything creates a deficit in your wallet. Instead of buying a new version, fully use up what you already own—provided it isn’t broken, of course. A tablet that is a few years old can still help you access ebooks and helpful study videos. You can take your psychology notes in the empty half of last quarter’s biology notebook. And, by refilling your reusable bottle at hydration stations you can eliminate plastic water bottle purchases and waste.

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