Category: sustainability tips (page 1 of 4)

How to Start Commuting by Bike

A commuter on their daily route. Image by Luca Rogoff.

Written by Elisa Sturkie

It’s been over two months since most of us have been able to safely head into work, and even longer since we could ride the T without thinking of the threat posed by COVID-19. For some, remote work is coming to an end: with Massachusetts entering into phase one of reopening on May 25th, Tufts researchers will be getting back into their labs, and some offices can resume work at a reduced capacity. Yet, with the Baker-Polito administration admitting that public transportation “unavoidably creates some risk” for COVID-19 transmission, many are still wary of taking the T.   

This is where the Office of Sustainability can help! With spring in full swing, there is no better time to maintain social distancing and start your bike commute. Somerville is ranked fifth nationally in number of biking commuters per capita, and is especially friendly to new bikers–something I know firsthand. Also, Massachusetts is the fifth most bike-friendly state in America, with Boston earning a “Silver” as a Bike Friendly Community. I started biking to work last summer for the first time, and it helped me to be healthier, more sustainable, and to explore new trails and bike paths in my community. I really couldn’t recommend it more. So, how do you get started planning your bike commute?  

1. Get a bike!  

In need of a bike? There are plenty of ways to purchase a bike sustainably in the Boston area–and many of them will also save you a little money! I got my bike used from Facebook Marketplace for a little over $50 in a move-out sale. Craigslist also has used bikes you can buy from neighbors, and until retail reopens, Cambridge Used Bicycles is conducting online bike sales with free delivery options within a five-mile radius of their store.  

Buying something used is of course more sustainable, but if you’d like a new bike, go to your local bike shop or buy from a smaller vendor online rather than from a big box store if you can. Here are the most environmentally conscious bike brands. Also, if your commute is actually pretty far and you have some money to spend, an electric bike will help you get to work fast, without all the sweat. If you’re trying to decide on a road bike, hybrid, or upright, check out this helpful webpage

Be sure to buy a helmet and bike lock! U locks are the most recommended form of lock, as they are much harder to cut through than cable locks, which prevents bike theft. 

Have a bike you need to fix up? Bike Boom in Davis Square is open for tune-ups and bike assembly, and now offers a contactless bike pickup and delivery service. Loads of other Boston-area bike shops are open now too. 

Not sure you want to commit to buying a bike? Join Blue Bikes and take out a shared bike whenever you like, without any of the upkeep! Speaking of upkeep… 

2. Take care of your bike!  

So now you’ve bought a bike. How do you keep it in good shape? It’s as simple as ABC: Air, Brakes, and Chain. Make sure you keep the right amount of air in your bike’s tires. Check the sidewall of your bike’s tires to be sure you know the correct amount of air pressure, and keep a bike pump and patch kit handy in case of a flat. Next, check your front and rear brakes to be sure they engage properly. Finally, keep your bike’s chain lubricated and clean to extend the life of your bike!  REI has some great how-to videos on the bike basics if you’d like a step by step.  

3. Plan and practice your route.  

When biking to work, never underestimate the importance of a practice run. I did and ended up sweaty and astonishingly early to work for most of my first week as a bike commuter. Be sure you know your route and what you need to commute comfortably and safely– even if that means packing a change of clothes. You’ll thank yourself later. Want some help planning your route? Trail map is here to help! You can also use Google Maps (click on the bike image), or if you work on one of Tufts’ Boston campuses, you can sign up for a Ride Amigos account here, and use their platform to plan your trip. 

4. Stay safe on the road!  

Lastly and most importantly, read up on cycling road signs and the rules of road biking. Hand signals are essential! When turning left, stick your left arm out straight; for a right turn, signal with your left arm, but bend your elbow ninety degrees (as if you are about to give someone a high five). It’s also important to be visible to cars, especially if biking at night (bike lights and reflective gear are a must!). Bikes are more vulnerable than cars and learning bike safety is the most important part of biking. Be a cautious rider, always being aware of your surroundings and stopping at red lights. Try to ride on roads with bike lanes and bike trails, or roads with bike sharrows, if there are no bike lanes near you, always ride closer to the right side of the road. Roads are safer for you than sidewalks, trust me! 

Have more questions? The Office of Sustainability has a great webpage about biking at Tufts, and a quick bike guide which might help, and we’re happy to take questions! Now that you have all the basics, hopefully you’ll be able to make the jump to a bike commute with confidence. Soon you’ll be exploring new bike paths, maintaining social distance in the fresh air, and getting to work sustainably! 

Update on Recycling Rules – Throw Out Colored Cups, But Recycle Clear Plastic Cups

Due to shifts in global recycling systems and high contamination levels of U.S. recyclable materials, the Massachusetts DEP has recently announced new recycling rules. One major change is that colored plastic cups will no longer be accepted in our recycling stream. However, clear plastic cups will still be taken. To avoid accidentally ending up with a colored cup, be sure to bring your own reusable cup the next time you buy a beverage on the go!

For details on the rules, view the visual guide below and check out the DEP’s website on their new guidelines.

Empty, Clean, and Dry

Items that can be recycled such as hard plastic containers, yogurt cups and plastic bottles and jugs (with the caps on) as well as glass bottles MUST be emptied, cleaned, and dried before being placed in a recycling bin. Please do not put any items with food, food residue, or liquid still in them in the recycling bins.

Plastic Bags are NOT recyclable

Any kind of plastic film or plastic bags can not be placed in the recycling bins. This includes grocery bags, bubble wrap, flexible plastic packaging, saran wrap, zip lock bags, and styrofoam. These items get caught in the machinery used in sorting facilities and can cause breakdowns and even worker injuries.

Other items that are NOT accepted as recycling

These items go to the landfill. Do NOT place these items in the recycling bins.

Paper items

  • paper towels
  • paper plates
  • tissues
  • cups (with lids)

Cardboard

  • greasy pizza box bottoms
  • juice and milk cartons

Plastic (even with recycling symbol)

  • colored plastic cups
  • plastic bags and plastic wrap
  • chip bags
  • styrofoam
  • plastic utensils
  • foil-lined energy bars – brings these to a terracycle bin (locations on our Eco-Map) instead!

Glass

  • lightbulbs – bring incandescent and CFL light bulbs to 550 Boston Ave. to have them replaced for LED light bulbs!
  • broken glass

When in doubt, throw it out

It may seem counterintuitive to throw something out in order to support sustainability. However, it is much better to throw something out if you are unsure it can be recycled rather than contaminate the recycling with materials that can not be recycled. Please refer to the infographic below, but when in doubt, throw it out.

In addition, do not rely on the triangular recycling symbol found on many products. This symbol signifies that the material used in the product are physically able be recycled, but that does not meant that the waste infrastructure in your specific community  has the capacity to recycle them.

For example, the sorting facility where recyclables from Tufts end up can not accept plastic bags, as they can damage the sorting equipment. However, companies like Trex take plastic bags and have a separate, special sorting facility where they can turn those bags into recycled outdoor decking materials and products.

 

Sustainable Eating At Tufts

August is Massachusetts Eat Local Month! There will be a number of events held throughout the state with partnering locations featuring local food.  On August 7th, there will also be a film screening of Forgotten Farms, a film about the New England dairy industry and regional food systems.

This month is a great opportunity to think about our local food system, and to find more ways to eat locally in your everyday life.

Eating local is a great way to help support the local economy and become more in tune with the seasons, the local region, and the particular ecosystems within which we live. In addition, eating locally helps you reduce the carbon footprint of your meal.

Ways to eat local

Farmers Markets

The Greater Boston area has a plethora of farmers markets during the region’s growing season, which spans from late May to November.

Find a farmers market near you by using this interactive map.

Join a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares are a great way to eat seasonally and try fruits and veggies that you might not see in a grocery store. Through a CSA, consumers can purchase their produce directly from farmers through a season-long share. Every week, members receive a box of sustainably-grown, seasonal produce.

Because CSA members purchase their share ahead of time, farmers are supported financially to purchase the supplies they need to grow crops.

New Entry Food Hub CSA, has a CSA pickup location on the Medford/Somerville campus, at the Latino Center. Pickup occurs every Tuesday.  New Entry, an initiative of Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, helps beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers gain business and farm production skills and access to land, markets and other resources necessary to start a viable farm business.

Sign up for a fall share here.

Buy local at your grocery store

You can find local produce at many grocery stores. Next time you’re at your neighborhood grocery store, look out for the “local” label, and see if you can find produce from the surrounding region.

Sustainable Eating

Pair eating local food with some of our other tips below to be a sustainability superstar! (Click on the image to view the PDF with active links!)

Tips for a Sustainable Move-In

With August fast approaching, it is getting to be that time of year when students start thinking about moving in to their Tufts residence for the upcoming school year!

Whether you are a returning student or a incoming first-year student, the Office of Sustainability has a few tips to make your move-in a greener one! Read on for details, and some PSAs from our Recycling Fellow.

Only Bring What You Need

This one is self-explanatory, but it’s an important one! The less you bring, the less packaging you’ll waste. In addition, it may be one less box to ship if you’re moving in from far away.

At the end of the year, so many items are left behind during move-out, which may signify that students are bringing/purchasing too many unnecessary items.

Wait On Big Purchases

Definitely wait to check-in with your room/house-mates about bringing large items to campus. If you wait to discuss logistics, you may be able to split the costs for many purchases and save a lot of money.

Additionally, you may be able to find more affordable options for some dorm room items once you get to campus (see below).

Buy Used

Don’t miss out on the second annual Blue and Brown Pass It Down Sale hosted by Tufts Green House! Many items collected during the Spring Move-Out will be available to purchase at the lowest prices around. This is a great place to get lamps, rugs, hangers, and other items you might need for your dorm room.

Additionally, Tufts Buy/Sell/Trade is a private Facebook Group for those with tufts.edu email addresses to exchange items, where many useful items are often posted.

Ditch Cardboard Boxes

Why use a cardboard box when you could use items you need to bring with you anyways, such as backpacks, duffel bags, suitcases, laundry bins and other containers. Not only will you reduce waste, you’ll also save space!

If you need to use cardboard boxes (if you are shipping items, for example), consider breaking them down and storing them under your bed until move-out. View the Recycling Fellow PSA below about cardboard box recycling for more reasons to ditch the boxes.

Replace Your Lightbulbs

Bring any incandescent lightbulbs to the Office of Sustainability at 550 Boston Ave and we will replace them with LED light bulbs, free of charge.

This is a part of an effort to reduce energy emissions from Tufts campuses. LED lights last much longer than incandescent lightbulbs, but are often much pricier. Definitely take advantage of this sweet deal!

Recycling Fellow PSAs:

Please bring any recyclables associated with your move-in to a recycling dumpster. There will be signs indicating the locations of the nearest dumpster to each dorm. You can also view our online Eco-Map for outdoor recycling locations.

If you have any questions about what can or can’t be recycled, please ask one of the Eco-Reps who will be walking around the dorms.

Please do not discard cardboard boxes in any location in the dorms. You must bring broken down cardboard boxes to the nearest recycling dumpster (locations will be indicated on signs posted in each dorm). If you don’t bring or discard cardboard boxes you won’t have to make this trek, as an added incentive to follow our tips above!

Plastic bags and film cannot be recycled through the regular recycling stream. Please do not place these in the recycling dumpsters. Look out for signage regarding designated bins for plastic film recycling.

 

4 Ways To Eliminate Plastic From Your Life

 

According to a National Geographic article, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been created since manufacturing of the material began six decades ago. The article also estimates that 91% of all plastic consumed around the world is not recycled.

As you may have seen on social media,  many people have attempted to avoid using plastic products completely for the month of July, as a part of Plastic-Free July. Although July is coming to an end, that does not mean that we should abandon the effort to reduce our plastic consumption.

Here are just a few small changes you can make to reduce your consumption of plastic on a daily basis:

Ditch Bottled Beverages and Disposable Cups:

According to a 2017 article, “a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.”  That comes down to around 20,000 plastic bottles every second! Not only is using a reusable mug or water bottle a great way to reduce plastic consumption, it may also save you some money. Many coffee shops and other stores offer discounts to those who bring their own bottles and mugs.

Bring Your Own Bag

As with reusable mugs and bottles, bringing your own reusable bag to grocery stores often gets you a discount. To take a step further, you can also purchase reusable mesh bags for produce instead of using the plastic bags available in the produce section of grocery stores.

Buy In Bulk

Buying in bulk is not always feasible if you do not have many mouths to feed in your home. As an alternative, many grocery stores have bulk sections where you can purchase items like grains, nuts, spices and dried fruits from bulk bins in the exact quantities that you need. Bringing your own container and measuring out the exact amount of an item you need is a great way to eliminate both packaging waste and food waste – because are you really going to use up that large container of cardamom you bought to make curry that one time?

Use Reusable Utensils

Whenever possible, try bringing your own utensils and plates to events and meetings where food may be served. For packed lunches, you could invest in a reusable sandwich or snack bag to replace single-use plastic bags. You could even try out beeswax wrap, an alternative to plastic wrap!

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