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Campus Queries: What are simple ways students can reduce their environmental footprint?

(Michelle Fu/Daily Bruin)

By Phoebe Chen

Jan. 15, 2019 12:46 a.m.

Q: What are the easiest ways to make the most positive environmental impact?

A: Among another wave of New Year’s resolutions, students are resolving to make more sustainable choices. However, it is not feasible for everyone to commit to a zero-waste lifestyle. The Daily Bruin spoke with researchers at UCLA to find out the easiest ways to live more sustainably.

Jennifer Jay, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UCLA, said one of the easiest ways for students to reduce their environmental impact is by reevaluating their food choices.

Animal products are less sustainable than plant products because they require more resources to be grown, packaged and delivered, Jay said.

A good way to start is by eating at Bruin Plate, she said. Jay said she thinks the dining hall does an excellent job of sourcing sustainable food. For example, it pays extra for well-sourced chicken that uses no antibiotics.

She said the Flex Bar in the De Neve dining hall is also a good option because it incorporates meat as a side dish instead of a main course, reducing the carbon footprint.

Jay added that students should avoid eating animals with more than one compartment in their stomach, such as cows, veal and sheep, because they expel more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than single-stomached animals.

She also advised students to avoid purchasing food items that require temperature control while being transported, like meat or ice cream.

Jay recommended students carry a reusable container to restaurants to reduce their carbon footprint. A reusable container prevents students from overeating because they might feel less pressure to finish everything on the plate and reduces waste by giving students a place to store leftover food for the next day, she added.

Stephanie Pincetl, a researcher in the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, said the main source of energy waste is laziness. Pincetl said many students take Lyft or Uber rides just to get to the other side of campus. She suggested Bird and Lime scooters as better alternatives because they are electric and do not require fossil fuels.

Pincetl said she thinks requesting food deliveries less frequently could make a positive environmental impact, adding that she thinks students are not busy nor important enough to have to have food delivered to them. She said students can eat on campus, walk to Westwood to get food or cook meals themselves.

“We have to think about how our privilege shapes what we think is normal,” Pincetl said. “[Our privilege] reinforces our energy and resource use.”

Pincetl added students living off campus could ask their landlords to install energy- and water-efficient appliances, as well as use LED light bulbs.

For students willing to exert a little more effort, she recommended pressuring UCLA administration to implement more sustainable policy through activism. Pincetl urged students to think more critically about the amount of energy and resources they use, saying all the little changes to their lifestyles will add up.

“It creates a set of habits and patterns for the rest of your life. How you live your life is seen by other people,” she said. “It has a ripple effect.”

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Phoebe Chen
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