By Melody Parker & Ariana Puopolo
Health/Science Editor, Health/Science Reporter

Gaining the “freshman 15” is not just about having to buy new pants anymore. It’s also about gaining a new perspective on how to live life in a way that benefits you as well as the community and the planet for generations to come. The Santa Cruz community embraces environmentally conscious lifestyles. Recycling, walking, carpooling and switching off the lights before leaving the house are all effective strategies, but they’re not enough. Each day, as students, we throw away a myriad of viable energy and resources without thinking about the repercussions.

Here are 15 easy ways UC Santa Cruz students can conserve energy and preserve the planet:

1. $ In warm weather, don’t blast the air conditioner in your cars or homes: run energy efficient fans, wear light clothes or jump in the ocean — that’s why we’re here, right?

2. $ Don’t bother driving in the first place, especially when going to work out. Ride a bike or walk to the gym. It’s a little silly to drive somewhere else to exercise.

3. Also, maintaining a healthy weight can save energy in the transportation sector. The University of Illinois did a study that showed a significant increase in CO2 emissions from vehicles carrying excess weight.

4. $ Buy food en masse. Dry goods like pasta, grains and baking ingredients can be purchased in bulk. This saves money, packing material, and gas since you will be making fewer trips to the grocery store.

5. Paper or plastic? Neither. Invest in a reusable grocery tote. Most convenience and grocery stores are producing them; so buy from your favorite vendor or use a backpack.

6. $$$ Bottled water wastes plastic (a derivative of petroleum), and is 240 to 10,000 times more expensive than tap water. To top it off, tap water in our area has stricter standards than bottled water. Invest in a reusable stainless steel or other durable water bottle to save some serious cash.

7. $ Print on both sides. The McHenry Library has a double-sided printing option. *Note: none of UCSC’s college computer labs have this option. Bug the administration to make this printing option a universal feature.

8. For those lucky students getting new laptops or desktops, don’t throw away your old ones. Computers can be donated to organizations that provide technology to worthy recipients.

9. In fact, don’t throw away any electronics. Each college at UCSC has a program to recycle old cell phones and other electronics. Take advantage of ULoop and get some cash out of it.

10. $ Even when your phone and computers aren’t plugged in, their chargers are absorbing electricity. Save energy and buy a power strip. When you’re not using your electronics and other appliances, switch the power strip to the off mode.

11. Most writable CDs are one-time use only. Keep disks out of landfills by purchasing rewritable CD-RWs, or stick to your MP3 player if you have one.

12. Many hygiene products are now packaged in refillable containers. Be creative with empty bottles, or refill them with new products and reduce packaging consumption.

13. $$ Heating water for laundry and showers consumes most of the energy that goes into washing. Reduce your energy consumption by running your laundry on the cold setting, and enjoy a nice morning wake-up call with a little cold water in the shower before the heat kicks in.

14. $$$ Buy used clothes and materials at thrift shops for a fraction of the price. That’s why Santa Cruz has so many. Buy your favorite pair of jeans at the Goodwill for $7.

15. $ Get a reusable mug for your eight daily cups of coffee instead of using paper cups, which are often lined with low-density polyethylene, a plastic that can take up to 100 years to biodegrade.