Never Doubt a Small Act

Hi Live Green! Enthusiasts, 

It’s Isabelle, the Live Green! Social Media Engagement intern, again. January was filled with gratitude for natural spaces, experiences and connections that enhance our appreciation for the outdoors. February will continue the celebration of sustainability with Sustainapalooza and the Symposium on Sustainability

Sustainapalooza is an event started by students for students in 2012 by The Green Umbrella club. The event celebrates all things sustainability and provides students an opportunity to “Green-It-Yourself” (GIY), network with sustainability leaders, enjoy locally-made refreshments, and more. This year’s event takes place on February 22, 2022 from 5-8 p.m. The theme of Sustainapalooza is “Taking Small Actions Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.” Stay up to date on the Facebook Events page

Sustainapalooza 2021

Everyday we are confronted with decisions, large and small. Even the tiniest thoughtful action, such as buying lunch packaged with non recyclable versus a recyclable material (or packing your own lunch in reusable containers), can have an impact on our environment. Small acts can seem insignificant, but they add up to make a considerable difference. 

The easiest way to identify small, doable opportunities for a greener lifestyle is to run through your daily routine from morning to night. For example, brushing your teeth. Do you turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth? Did you know brushing your teeth with the water running equals about four gallons of water or two gallons each minute? Just think… If all 36,000 students at Iowa State University turned off the water while brushing their teeth in the morning, we would save up to… 

144,000 gallons of water

Photo Courtesy of The Health

Saving 144,000 gallons of water is quite a significant feat. A standard bathtub holds 80 gallons of water. So… 144,000 gallons is like filling 1,800 bathtubs. But, the impact does not stop there. Because we brush our teeth every morning and night, the gallons used (by letting the water run while brushing) actually doubles to 3,600 full bathtubs. That is the number of bathtubs; but let’s make this even more applicable to our daily activities. Since none of us fills a bathtub completely full to bathe, but maybe halfway, 144,000 gallons of water is like wasting the same amount of water needed for 7,200 people to take a bath. Let’s say you are more a shower taker. Assuming an average of 21 gallons of water for a 10 minute shower, 144,000 gallons of wasted water is the equivalent of 6,857 showers. This is only one example of how small actions DO make a larger difference!

Continue thinking about your routine and small actions throughout the day. How frequently do you purchase a beverage on your way to class or work? Do you bring your own mug to refill or opt for the disposable cup and sleeve? Skipping the disposable and choosing reusable can make such a difference! A study by the Environmental Defense Fund showed that one disposable 16-ounce cup and sleeve produced .25 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and resulted in a .93 square foot loss of natural habitat. To put it into perspective, if about half of Iowa State’s student population (about 18,000 people) used one 16 ounce disposable paper cup with a sleeve every day, that is…

4,500 pounds of CO2 emissions 

(obtaining production materials, production, shipping)

16,740 square feet (.38 acres) loss of natural habitat

Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock

To make sense of these numbers, consider this… a football field is 1.32 acres, or just over a fourth of a football field. So, half of ISU students bringing a reusable coffee cup is the equivalent of conserving an area of natural habitat the size of a little over a fourth of Jack Trice Field. The impacts of producing disposable coffee cups do not end there. According to the EPA, burning one gallon of gasoline emits 19.6 pounds CO2, which can be compared to burning 230 gallons of gasoline to fulfill the 18,000 disposable cups in our example. Traveling from Ames, Iowa to Los Angelos, California requires about 69 gallons of gasoline, and according to CNET, the average car gets 25 miles per gallon. So, because L.A. is 1,718 miles from Ames, this would be the equivalent of just over three people driving separately from Ames to L.A. Taking a small action, such as committing to a reusable mug, plays a large part in reducing unnecessary waste and deforestation. It also adds some “green” to your wallet. Most coffee shops offer a discount for using a reusable mug. For example, Starbucks will take off $0.10 for bringing a reusable mug, and on campus, the ISU Dining retail locations offer a $0.35 discount for bringing your own mug. Visit Aerrem for more unique ways reusable mugs benefit us and the environment. 

Another impactful, yet small, way to reduce your carbon footprint and be eco-friendly is rethinking transportation. How do you get to school or work? Have you considered swapping out one day of driving and taking public transportation (CyRide!), walking or biking in the mornings? CyRide is working towards sustainability by using electric and hybrid buses, biodiesel fuel and solar powered bus shelters and a certified LEED Gold administrative building. Did you know taking the bus emits 33% less greenhouse gas emissions per mile than a single-passenger vehicle? According to the EPA, the average vehicle emits about 0.91 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile. If about half of the Iowa State student population (18,000 people) lived within a mile of class and chose to forgo their car for a day, we would save around…

16,310 pounds of CO2 emissions

And if you drove to class, then you have to drive back! So that number would double to 32,620 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted. Think back to the example above – producing 18,000 disposable cups was the equivalent of burning 230 gallons of gas. In this case, if about half of ISU chose not to drive to class/work, that is the equivalent of burning 832 gallons of fuel, or 1,664 gallons since you drive there and back! So, like in our example above, this would be the equivalent of about 24 people driving separately from Ames, IA to Los Angelos, CA. This is your sign to bundle up and walk or bus to class today!

 Photo Courtesy of Iowa State Daily

There are more opportunities to engage in small acts when we arrive home after the day. Most of us plug in our electronics at night to prepare for the next morning. But do you fully shut down your computer or do you leave it on sleep mode? Believe it or not, powering down your computer is very environmentally-friendly and cost effective. According to Chron, turning off your monitor can save 50 W of power consumption. With that in mind, if all Iowa State students (36,000) powered off their computers at night, we would collectively save…

1,800,000 W of energy

Photo Courtesy of Home Depot

According to Sun Power, the average house uses 30,000 W (or 30 kilowatts) of electricity in one day, so that is the equivalent of powering 60 houses for a day. Shutting down electronics not only saves energy, but also saves money! Electronics generally use around 75% of their power in sleep/standby, so by shutting down, you would be charging your computer much less than you currently do. 

There are also less evident, but equally important, ways to support a sustainable future in your daily life. Remember the example above about purchasing a lunch packaged with plastic versus a recyclable material? Small purchases throughout the day create opportunities for voting with your dollar and staying mindful of consumption. Actress and Activist Emma Watson said:

As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.

Voting with your dollar and putting it towards companies or products that align with your values is an empowering opportunity. A good way to practice voting with your dollar is to ask yourself if you agree with everything (or close to everything) the company stands behind. Visit Grow Ensemble to learn more about what voting with your dollar means and the reasoning behind taking the extra consideration when making purchasing decisions. 

Photo Courtesy of Home Hacks

Stay tuned on the Live Green! social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and WordPress) for more ideas on small actions for sustainability, as well as updates on Sustainapalooza. Don’t forget to RSVP for Sustainapalooza on the Facebook Event page. The February Newsletter, titled Small Acts, Big Impact, will also offer insights on small sustainable actions, adding up to create a brighter future!

Wishing everyone an eco-friendly and sustainable February!

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