What San Francisco Residents Can do to Make Urban Living More Eco-Friendly

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In the United States, California is a leader in sustainability. According to a national study conducted by WalletHub, California ranks 9th in overall environmentally friendly practices when compared with other states. This report analyzed each state’s overall energy consumption, reusable energy accessibility, and LEED building certification, as well as soil, water, and air quality. The data indicates that while California has exceptionally low rates of energy consumption—ranking 3rd in usage per capita—it also has the worst air quality of any state in the Union.

However, there are cities in California that exhibit higher sustainability standards than others. San Francisco, for example, is widely known as an eco-friendly city with comparatively low rates of consumption and pollution. This shows an institutional commitment to sustainability, as well as high levels of resident interest in protecting the environment. While this speaks highly of residents in San Francisco, there is always more to be done to make urban living more eco-friendly.

Consume Consciously

Being a conscious consumer is critical to living a greener lifestyle.

Before you purchase, consider the environmental, ecological, and sociopolitical impact, and decide if the item is both necessary to your lifestyle and reflective of sustainable values. Always be utilitarian, and only purchase what you need.
When purchases are necessary, be sure to invest in quality products that will last or can be repaired.
Buy local, and limit online shopping to reduce emissions. If you can, buy it used.
When you need a new phone or laptop, consider whether or not the upgrade is truly necessary. If it is, opt for refurbished electronics at checkout.
Avoid items composed of plastics; food storage containers are big culprits and can be easily swapped for glass and metal alternatives.
Switch to recycled paper products and go paperless with bills and publications.
Use biodegradable soaps! In coastal areas like San Francisco, this is an extremely important step that helps protect aquatic environments and improves overall water quality.

Learn about your area’s recycling guidelines and recycle everything. Waste removal companies can help you with larger items that are more difficult to move and process, such as appliances, mattresses, and carpeting. They will even pick it up for you! Always remember that your purchasing power matters. When you support sustainable businesses, you are directly contributing to a wider network of green alternatives.

Transportation

The sheer number of cars on the road contribute significantly to poor air quality in California. While San Francisco generally performs better in air quality standards, it is essential for residents to reduce the amount of time they spend driving alone.

The best options are the ones that avoid driving and mass transit all together, such as walking or biking. Bike commuting is popular in San Francisco, making it a safe alternative as drivers are used to sharing the road. Additionally, public transportation in San Francisco is extremely diverse and accessible, particularly when combined with biking and walking. BART service is fast, and fares are dependent on how far you travel. There is also a system of above-groundbus routes that connect the surrounding area to the city. Carpooling, ridesharing, and shuttle services are abundant and convenient.

If your lifestyle allows, invest in an electric or hybrid car, which reduces fossil fuel consumption while also limiting harmful emissions. No matter what suits your needs, opting for alternative transportation saves you and your city money and time while preserving the environment and fostering healthy living.

Green Eating

San Francisco is avidly health conscious and is already a leader in the sustainable food industry. Vegetarian and vegan diets are particularly popular, cutting the city’s meat consumption significantly. If you do eat meat, try lowering your intake gradually. Purchase products from smaller farms that grass feed their animals and practice rotational grazing. Avoid farm raised fish and buy local.

San Franciscans have access to an incredible variety of foods grown right in California. Farmer’s Markets and co-ops are abundant and often year-round, making it easy to maintain a healthy diet of diverse foods. Buy organic and Fair-Tradegoods that support sustainable business models. Meal plan fastidiously, avoid food waste, and compost! If you have a yard, or even just a well-lit windowsill, consider urban farming. When you know where your food comes from, you are more likely to make food selections that support your health and the health of the environment.

Vote and Volunteer

Awareness is key. Educate yourself and get involved! Large-scale, institutional change is made when citizens register to vote, and support green legislation and candidates that value sustainable practices. Support and pilot initiatives that encourage community education and green living, especially those that engage with children and youth. Volunteer your time with local organizations that plant trees, clean up parks, and advocate for environmental reform. Change is possible when everyone is in it together.