Isla Vista is a dirty place. Despite its views of the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands, mild weather and the mountainous Santa Ynez backdrop, trekking down the streets of I.V. is no walk in the park. Broken glass, keg cups, cigarette butts and almost every kind of litter imaginable can be found in our streets. Before recycling, reducing and reusing our resources, we need to learn how to manage the waste we produce in the first place. We can change Isla Vista’s status as having one of the worst recycling records in Santa Barbara County to having the best record with a little education and conscientiousness.
When I went to science camp in the fifth grade, there was an ongoing “no waste” competition. At the end of each meal we would put our food leftovers in a bucket and someone would come around and collect it. This amount was weighed, and at the end of the week the table with the least amount of waste would win. In our daily lives, recognizing that the amount of waste we produce is surprisingly unnecessary and easily reducible.
Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging per item and makes your goods cheaper at the same time. The larger product size will often have less waste per unit than a smaller product. Keep an eye out, though, on laundry soaps, since sometimes the largest bottles don’t wash the most loads of dirty clothes. Many environmental brands are using more concentrated formulas to reduce the economic and environmental cost of shipping. Also, don’t buy what you don’t need. It may seem like you want a lifetime supply of ramen noodles now, but one day you might want to upgrade to some higher quality grub.
At the end of the quarter, don’t throw away your notebooks: Recycle them at one of the university drop-off centers. An even better tip: Rip out the extra blank pages to use for binders next quarter. Before throwing away that edited essay, consider using the backs of the paper for scratch paper.
Purchase a BRITA water filtration system and a Nalgene water bottle as substitutes to flats of plastic water bottles from the supermarket. You will not only save money, but you can rest assured your water is not contaminated or chemically altered. Over a million barrels of oil in the U.S. alone are used to make water bottles from polyethylene terephthalate – 86 percent of which are put in landfills or incinerated, according to oneworld.net. Also, invest in a reusable coffee mug for your cold weather beverages to cut back on styrofoam and paper waste.
Instead of accumulating more plastic bag trash can liners than you actually need, buy a cloth grocery bag to bring to the supermarket. This saves the need for a plastic bag every time you shop. These bags can be found anywhere, but most conveniently at the Isla Vista Co-Op and Trader Joe’s.
Re-think what is “garbage” and what is “recycling.” Keg cups, beer cans and beer bottles are all common, recyclable Isla Vista party accessories. If you’re cleaning up a party, recycle these items, or wash your keg cups to reuse at the next shindig.
Keep a trash and recycling bin in your kitchen. Some rules of thumb can be found at Santa Barbara County’s Waste Reduction Program Web site: www.lessismore.org/what_can_i_recycle/what_can_i_text.html. Aluminum cans, metal, paper, glass, plastics (1-7) and cardboard can all be recycled. Avoid putting paper towels, batteries, plastic bags and styrofoam in the recycling bin. Make sure to recycle your junk mail: More than four million tons of junk mail ends up in landfills every year.
Support products using recycled packaging. By buying products with recycled components, you’re helping the company continue its environmental policies, as well as sending a message to less environmentally preferable companies. Burt’s Bees makes shampoos, lotions and some cosmetics using recycled packaging. Look for the island in between the cashiers in the bookstore displaying recycled notebooks and other school supplies.
Buy used. Not just clothing, but books, furniture, auto parts, appliances and whatever else you can think of. This will save you money and reduce the amount of goods cycling in the trash system. Instead of buying overpriced books from bookstores, use our library to save some trees.
By reducing the amount of waste we produce on a day-to-day basis, you can cut down on the waste overflowing from our dumpsters and recycling bins into our streets. Buying in bulk and buying only what you will use, recycling and supporting environmentally-aware companies will improve the Isla Vista landscape.