Every April 22, people around the world dust off their shovels, pick up some gloves and get to work. It’s Earth Day: the day we give back to the planet and explore the effects we’re having on the environment around us. Whether it's panel discussions on environmental consciousness, group planting days or just handing out flyers to the student body, many colleges use Earth Day to discuss sustainability issues.
However, you don’t have to wait for a university or campus group to tell you what to do on Earth Day. There are plenty of activities you can do on your own, or with a group of friends, and still give back to the Earth. Below are just a few ideas.
1. Stop wasting dorm food.
Maybe mom took you shopping and let you get all the goodies you wanted, or maybe you took a little too much back with you from the dining hall. Whatever the reason, we’ve all been guilty of it at some point. As a group, college campuses waste around 22 million pounds of food per year. So next time mom takes you to the store, try considering what you actually need over what you really want.
2. Shop at a farmer’s market.
Rather than purchasing food that has been shipped all around the world, try shopping at a local farmer’s market. The farmer’s market can be a fun place to explore — local vendors may set up snacks, there may be live music and it’s just a great way to get involved in the community. Not to mention, supporting local business is always a plus.
3. Get involved in a community garden.
Community and sustainability gardens have been growing in popularity on college campuses and are a great resource for students. Gardening can be a great way to spend time with friends, meet new people or just reflect by yourself. Also, in addition to helping the planet, helping out in a community garden is a great way to give back to your college and its surrounding community.
4. Build a recycling bin for your beauty products.
According to DoSomething.org, almost half of Americans forget to recycle their beauty and personal care products. However, one easy and fun way to combat this trend is to make your own recycling bin for your bathroom.
Not only will participating in this campaign help prevent beauty products from entering landfills, you can also enter a drawing for a $5,000 scholarship from DoSomething.org.
5. Laundry day.
If you're one of those people that actually does their laundry on campus rather than waiting and taking it back home, I applaud you. However, laundry centers are some of the most wasteful facilities on college campuses. In order to cut back on needless waste, try doing laundry only when you have a full load or combining your stuff with your roommate’s things. And always opt for the cold water setting — it’s better for your clothes and saves energy.
6. Switch your font.
In an interesting approach, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay changed its email font to Century Gothic, which uses about 30 percent less ink when printed on paper. While this approach may not be recommended for term papers, try doing this when just printing notes or other documents for personal use.
7. Donate old clothes.
With move-out day just around the corner, you may find yourself staring at all the items in your room with dread. It’s crazy to think that you got everything in here in the first place, but soon you’ll have to take it all out again. However, cleaning out your overstuffed closet and donating those lightly worn articles can help lighten that load. Not to mention, donating clothes to charity is a great way to support your community, and someone out there will surely appreciate it.
8. Unplug unused electronics.
Whether it’s that hairdryer that’s only touched once a week or that lamp just gathering dust since move-in day, electronics still consume electricity when they're turned off. While you don’t have to unplug everything in your dorm, try to spot the items you rarely use and put them away. Even unplugging your phone charger when you’re not using it can make a difference. After all, it’s the little things that add up!
9. Try working with a campus group.
Earth Day is a big day for environmental groups, and there’s a strong chance they might be holding a campus event. While you certainly don’t have to join the club, campus groups are notoriously short-staffed and would probably welcome any additions willing to help out. However, if you’re not comfortable reaching out like that, simply spreading the word and bringing friends to the event is a great way to support the group.
10. Recycle your homework.
Sometimes, it’s a little too tempting to crumple your homework into a ball and shoot it into a trashcan. However, if you’re not saving it for future reference, try recycling your homework instead of just throwing it away.
All in all, there are so many ways college students can cut waste on Earth Day. All it takes is a little patience, a willingness to help and some creativity. For even more ideas, be sure to check out our environmental sustainability article.
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