One of the biggest challenges that we’re facing today is the environmental danger to our planet. Global warming, climate change, and plastic pollution have become topics we hear about regularly in the news.
By developing sustainable habits early, you can help to reduce greenhouse gases and your carbon footprint to make a less harmful impact on the environment.
What Does Go Green Mean?
“Going green” means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles. Going green can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.
Ways to Go Green
Adopting a greener approach to life doesn’t have to be difficult. There are small changes you can implement into your daily life that take little to no time or effort and can help create a healthier society that both consumes less and produces less waste.
Here are 7 easy ways you can live sustainably (greener) in college:
- Ditch Single-Use Plastic for Eco-Friendly Products
This is one small, but hugely impactful step that you can take to reduce the strain the environment caused by plastics. Single-use utensils, plates, boxes and containers are all around us, especially in college.
Make a point to replace single-use plastic products with their reusable equivalents. For example, purchase a reusable BPA-free water bottle.
According to The Water Project, it’s estimated that up to 80 percent of plastic water bottles in the United States never get recycled. In addition, it takes three times the amount of water that’s in a water bottle to create the bottle in the first place! The Water Project also notes that U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone.
The same goes for disposable coffee cups. Though it may be more convenient, those waxed paper cups aren’t recyclable, and will just end up in the landfill after you’re done with them. So carry a second bottle or reusable mug with you for your hot beverages – some places even offer a discount on your order for opting out of the cup.
Similar to the plastic water bottles, plastic bags are non-biodegradable objects. Consider switching to a reusable bag, often made from organic materials such as cotton, wool and hemp.
With some states charging for plastic bags, reusable tote bags have become an excellent substitute, as they are cheaper in the long run. These bags can also be more spacious and stronger than plastic bags! Don’t stop there – eco-friendly products for college students are readily available.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Recycling is the cornerstone of caring for the environment through a daily habit.
Most colleges have recycling bins scattered around the campus, so find the closest one to you and regularly visit the bin and recycle your stacks of paper. If you don’t have access to a recycling bin, contact your administration and find out where the nearest drop-off is – and encourage them to install more blue bins around campus while you’re at it.
You know the old saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Well, it is often true. Don’t throw away perfectly good things just because you’re sick of them, or no longer have use for them. You can host clothing swaps with friends, or give your unwanted, gently used clothing and furniture another life by donating or selling them instead of throwing them away.
Upcycling is a creative way to make old items into something more valuable. This could be reusing a jam jar as a candle holder, or using old tins as plant pots – the possibilities are endless! If you’re not sure how to start, there are numerous websites, blogs and forums where you can pick up interesting ideas for breathing new life into your old, used objects.
- Watch Your Water Usage
Remember that old adage, “save some for the fish?” You can do this in your daily life by turning off water while brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving.
In addition, cutting down your shower time can save more water and make a bigger impact than you’d think. It’s estimated that, using an average number of 2.5 gallons per minute from the typical shower head, reducing your shower length by 4 minutes per day would save 3,650 gallons per year.
- Cut Down on Paper
Think about how much paper you use during the semester – class notes, assignments, tests, and so on.
Cutting paper usage is one of the main areas where college students can save money and the environment. The less you need to restock your paper supplies, the better. A few simple tips to get started:
- Always use the front and back of your paper when writing notes
- Avoid taking handfuls of paper napkins from the cafeteria
- Clean up spills using a dish cloth instead of a paper towel
- When printing, save misprints by always double checking the document you’re printing
- If you do make a mistake, either recycle the paper or use the back for scrap paper for notes, writing down ideas, etc
- For those who write notes on paper, make a point to buy recycled material notebooks
- Mind Your Transportation
Transportation is considered to be one of the main contributors to climate change and carbon emissions. That’s why you can choose to use environment-friendly transportation means as a college student – like walking or riding a bike.
Bikeshare programs are becoming more common, both on campuses and off. Find out whether your school has such a program. If not, there may be another local option, or you may want to get involved in setting the wheels in motion for a bikeshare initiative at your campus. Walking or riding a bike helps reduce carbon emissions and keeps you in great shape, too!
- Always Power Down
Our chargers and small appliances suck up standby power even when not in use. To cut down on wasted electricity, when you’re not using appliances or you leave the room – be sure to turn off lights and other electronics. An easy way to implement this is by connecting your electronics to a surge protector and flipping the switch when you leave the room. Also, your electric bill will thank you!
Bonus tip: try using energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs. They last longer, which will save you a bit of money too.
- Meatless Monday
Did you know that raising and preparing meat produces between 10 and 40 times more greenhouse gas emissions than growing and harvesting vegetables and grains? This doesn’t mean you have to go vegan – just cutting back on your consumption of meat and dairy can go a long way in supporting a healthy world.
Eating less meat – even omitting it from your meal one day each week – can positively influence change. When you do eat meat, look for labels that specify free range, organic and hormone and antibiotic free. There are resources to help you find sustainable food locally so you know exactly where your food is coming from – especially since it can not only affect the environment, but your health as well.
By striving to make small but efficient changes in your routine, you can lower your environmental impact, lower your bills, and incorporate more eco-friendly practices in your life! Earth is our home, so it’s important to protect it, respect it, and celebrate it with our everyday actions and thoughts.
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