The commute from San Francisco to Mills College can be a harrowing experience. Most of the time though, with a little planning, it’s a breeze. I knew when I accepted my offer of admission to Mills – in part, my decision to go here was due to the college’s commitment to sustainability – that I had to find ways to live out my ideals of how I wanted to move through the world without generating much waste, supporting my local economy and maintaining my choice of a vegan and whole foods diet, etc.
Below are some of the choices I make every week to maintain a sustainable, commuting life. Everyone can make small changes – even non-commuters – that will add up to making a big difference.
- Use existing public transportation. According to this Freakonomics article, “If we can persuade travelers to leave their cars and ride existing transit service, rather than new service, the environment will benefit greatly.” With your Mills College AC Transit pass, you can get all over the bay for free or very cheap. By using a system that runs regardless of whether you’re on it or not, rather than putting one more car on the road, you’ll be cutting your carbon dioxide emissions. If public transit is out of the question for you, try parking further away from your final destination and walking or biking the rest of the way.
- Bring your own food. Packing your own food ahead of time, rather than purchasing it at school or elsewhere, will cut down on the money you spend, and you’ll be generating less wrapper and plastic waste that comes with buying food ready-to-eat.
- Use reusable containers, bags and cutlery. If you commute to school two days a week and use two forks a day at the Tea Shop, that’s around 64 forks a semester (128 per year) that you’re throwing out. Then, do the math to add in disposable coffee cups, Ziploc bags, etc. and picture the heap of waste you would’ve generated. Invest in quality food containers, as well as a thermos and water bottle, and bring your own cutlery that you can wash at home.
- Print as little as possible. This will save your back and help prevent further deforestation. According to this article on the New York Times website, “Fifteen billion trees are cut down each year, and five billion are planted. At that rate, all of Earth’s trees will be gone in about 300 years.”
- Eat local, organic and vegan. This last one isn’t just for commuters. You can reduce your waste, help conserve water, save animals’ lives, improve your health and reduce your footprint (cows produce more methane gas than cars do). Do a little research and figure out what’s manageable for you. Substituting even one meal a week for one made up of sustainably and organically grown fruits and vegetables will make a difference.
In my experience, making changes to live more sustainably has only ever caused an increase in personal happiness, even if the changes were challenging. Living in a way that you choose with intention – supporting principles in which you believe – will always be worth any initially perceived inconveniences.