Green Living Made Easy: 12 Simple Things You Can Do to Protect the Environment
For the environmentally-conscious citizen, San Francisco and its surrounding areas have a lot to be proud of.
Renowned as one of the greenest cities in North America, it’s known as a Climate Action Champion and is considered a global leader in terms of creating legislation and promoting lifestyle changes that support a greener, more eco-friendly society.
And while big changes are needed around the world to protect the environment, small, everyday changes also add up and make a big difference.
So, if you’ve ever felt compelled to become an even greater advocate for the environment, we’ve got 12 simple things you can do in your daily life to make a big difference.
While the concept of minimalism is simple, it’s a bit more challenging in practice.
Minimalism can be defined as the act of purposefully owning only the things you really need. It involves focusing on the essentials and making them count.
And while the reality is that complete minimalism is drastic and incredibly difficult to achieve, the principles it promotes are what matter most.
For instance, you can think about adopting “everyday minimalism” and simply being more conscious and intentional in what you buy, why buy it, and where you buy it from.
While San Francisco and the surrounding areas have made significant strides to reduce the use of disposable items, like plastic straws and bags, there’s always room for improvement.
This can include things like:
- Purchasing reusable coffee cups and water bottles
- Eliminating disposable plates and cutlery from your life
- Having reusable bags on hand to avoid the use of paper bags
While this might seem like a small step, it’s pretty significant when you consider that:
- In the U.S., we throw away more than 50 billion coffee cups every year
- We also use half a billion straws every single day
- Globally, an estimated 583 billion plastic bottles were produced in 2021 alone—an increase of more than 100 billion more than even five years ago
By simply stocking up on—and making a habit of using—reusable products, you can help reduce waste and cut back on the emissions required to produce disposable items.
On a civic level, the San Francisco area passed its public Zero Waste resolution nearly two decades ago. Its goal was to enact laws and adopt policies that lead to an existence where no discarded materials end up in a landfill.
But for individual citizens, recycling at home and at work is still an important environmental responsibility.
And it can be done really simply.
In Sonoma County, you can throw a ton of items in your blue bin, including:
- Bags (paper only, no plastic)
- Cardboard (non-waxed)
- Cereal boxes
- Office paper
- Egg cartons
- Junk mail and magazines
- Packing paper
- Sticky notes (larger than 3″x3″)
- Wrapping paper (non-metallic)
- Shredded Paper – Sonoma Resource Recovery & Sonoma Garbage Collectors (ONLY). Recology customers: Green Compost Bin.
- Bottles (leave caps on)
- Clamshell containers
- Glass bottles and jars
- Milk cartons
- Soy/rice milk cartons and juice boxes (aseptic packaging)
- Aluminum, tin, and steel/bi-metal cans
- Aluminum foil
- Aerosol cans, empty and without pressure
All you need to do to prep your recycling is:
- Pour out liquids
- Scrape out food from recyclables
- Wipe out oily or sticky residue from recyclables
Recycling conserves natural resources, reduces pollution, and saves energy, meaning it can have a major positive impact on the environment.
On the other end of the spectrum from recycling, upcycling is the practice of repurposing items that still have life left in them.
This could take the form of something simple, like creating Mason jar lanterns for your outdoor spaces.
It could also be something more elaborate, like creating a chandelier using old bike parts.
And if DIY projects aren’t for you, there are a ton of local upcycling companies doing incredible things with items that would otherwise be thrown away, including:
- Lot 49 (Oakland): This company upcycles old vintage items into incredibly bright, colorful, and unique furniture, plates, vases, and more.
- Re4m (Oakland): With the goal of creating sustainable, design-forward products that people actually want to own, Re4m carries everything from succulent terrariums set in Straus Creamy bottles and discarded vases to stools made of paper pulp egg crates that have been dyed and glued together.
Finding new ways to use old things cuts back on waste and reduces the demand for new products.
Support eco-friendly businesses
Speaking of local businesses, another simple way to protect the environment is to support businesses that make a point of operating sustainably.
SOMO Village is home to a ton of eco-friendly businesses, both those operating retail locations as well as those working from SOMO Cowork.
Businesses can operate sustainably by:
- Implementing eco-friendly shipping practices (believe it or not, each year, enough Bubble Wrap is created globally to cover the distance between the earth and the moon, much of which is used in shipping)
- Using sustainable products
- Operating ethically
- Becoming a B-Corp (SOMO Village and a number of our partners have this designation)
- Measuring and reducing or offsetting carbon emissions
Sourcing eco-friendly businesses takes a bit of research, but it’s worthwhile in the long run.
Install green roofs and walls
As of January 1, 2017, San Francisco officially became the first U.S. city to pass a mandate which meant solar and living roofs would account for 15% to 30% of the roof space on most new construction.
And this is a principle you can apply to your own home.
In fact, adding green roofs or green walls can help keep your house cool in the summer and warmer in the winter, in turn reducing your energy usage—and the subsequent costs—by as much as twenty-three percent.
Turn off your computer
When you finish work at night, do you leave your computer open, close the screen, or turn it off completely?
While this might seem trivial, even something as simple as shutting your computer down at night can help reduce your carbon footprint.
And, if you want to take this a step further, you can look for a new, more energy-efficient computer next time you need to upgrade.
Not sure how to do that?
It’s easy. Just look for the Energy Star label, an indicator that the computer can save between 35% and 65% in energy use.
You can also consider donating your old computers rather than recycling them. Believe it or not, reusing one computer as opposed to buying a new one keeps more than 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Eat healthily and choose local foods
Globally, large-scale food production accounts for as much as one-quarter of all greenhouse emissions and is responsible for almost 60% of global biodiversity loss. This is especially true of meat-based foods—producing one pound of meat requires more than 2,400 gallons of water.
So, what does this mean?
It means that, by simply reducing the amount of meat and dairy you consume in your daily diet, you can actually reduce your carbon footprint in the process.
You can also consider purchasing food from local farmers, allowing them to sell their products locally rather than shipping them elsewhere.
And, last but not least, you can consider reducing the amount of takeout you order.
Just how much of an impact can this really have?
The amount of single-use plastics used globally has tripled since the start of the pandemic. And the leading cause driving this increase was takeout food orders.
Luckily, there are companies like World Centric—which has its headquarters here in SOMO Village-that produce 100% compostable food service ware made from plants. World Centric is a mission-driven B Corp, donating 25% of profits annually to fund projects around the world.
Within SOMO Village, nearly two-thirds of all food is sourced from local farmers and on-site gardens and then shared through an all-season farmer’s market, a community orchard, and sustainable grocery stores and restaurants.
For many people, the idea of throwing out food seems completely harmless. After all, it’s biodegradable and will eventually break down.
And while this is true, the trouble with throwing out food waste isn’t in its biodegradability. It’s that, when food waste and organics end up in landfills, it produces a ton of methane emissions.
More specifically, every 100 pounds of food waste in our landfills sends 8.3 pounds of methane into the atmosphere. And, over the course of 20 years, methane has 86 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.
On the other hand, composting helps significantly reduce the amount of methane given off by food waste, conserves water, and combats climate change.
Zero Waste Sonoma, a regional government agency operating programs to reduce landfilled waste in Sonoma County, has recently rolled out a new campaign called Think Again which focuses on all the ways composting can help slow climate change.
The organization also hosts its annual Zero Waste Symposium here at SOMO Village.
Keep the car parked
Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, reducing the amount of driving you do, and finding new ways to get around can have a big impact on the environment.
Every vehicle on the road emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every single year. And with more than 1.4 billion cars on the road today, that math adds up to a massive volume of pollution.
Instead, think about walking, riding a bike, or taking public transportation for shorter trips.
At SOMO Village, every aspect of our community was meant to reduce the number of cars on the road and the amount of time you spend commuting, from having workspaces close to home to having public transit easily accessible and ensuring our entire community is bike-friendly.
When you do need to drive, the way you drive can also determine just how much pollution your car gives off.
- Quick accelerations and high speeds burn a ton of fuel
- Abrupt stops waste energy
- Idling your car, especially while running air conditioning, uses a lot of gas
- Maintaining your vehicle can ensure it runs efficiently
Driving steadily and gently in a well-maintained car can actually reduce your vehicle’s impact on the environment.
Making your home eco-friendly
You spend a ton of time at home. So, making choices to ensure it’s environmentally friendly is key.
This can include:
- Swapping in energy-efficient light bulbs
- Purchasing energy-efficient appliances
- Upgrading to high-quality windows to reduce heat transfer
You can also seek a community that prioritizes environmental consciousness.
SOMO Village was built to be carbon neutral by heating, cooling, and powering all homes and buildings with 100% renewable energy generated on-site. We also leveraged smart design and future recyclability practices to reduce waste by 98% in our community, allowing a maximum of 2% of waste to be sent to a landfill and ensuring 70% is reclaimed, reused, recycled, or composted.
Stay educated and use your voice
Sometimes helping the environment simply comes down to staying educated about current events and best practices and using your voice.
You can discuss environmental awareness with friends and family, and you can take meaningful action to make your voice heard by our politicians.
While the small, daily actions of individual people might not seem like they have a big impact, the culmination of many people acting in the best interest of the environment can add up to a big difference.
So, if you’re interested in living in a community with sustainability at its core, we invite you to come to visit SOMO Village and learn more about what we’re doing to protect the environment and support a better future for all.