Developing an efficient and environmentally conscious lifestyle is something often overlooked in college. After all, it's not like students have time to plant trees or the money to invest in hybrid cars. Thankfully, these aren't the only ways to significantly lessen your environmental impact. In fact, it's the little things that actually make the biggest impact.
Below are a few ways to amend your daily routine to help the Earth.
1. Recycle your homework.
If you’re not saving it for future reference, try recycling your homework instead of just throwing it in the trash. Or you can get creative and use your homework for inexpensive dorm decorations. You get the satisfaction of cutting your homework up while also livening up your room.
2. Don't leave the tap on.
Did you know you waste four gallons of water a minute when you leave the water on when brushing your teeth? Or that turning the water off when shaving can save around 400 gallons a week? Turns out, you don’t have to completely revamp your morning routine to be more environmentally conscious. In fact, it’s super easy! Turning the water off when brushing your teeth, shampooing your hair or shaving your legs are just a few great ways to cut back on water waste.
3. Try Blackle.
An eco-friendly alternative to Google, Blackle.com, is a site that looks exactly like Google and is even powered by it. The hitch? Instead of a white background, Blackle has a black background. This simple change can save up to 750 Megawatt-hours per year.
4. Unplug unused electronics.
Maybe it’s your hairdryer that you only use once a week or a lamp that hasn’t been touched since move-in day, but electronics still consume electricity when they're turned off. You don’t have to unplug everything in your dorm, but simply unplugging your phone charger when you’re not using it can make a difference. After all, it’s the little things that add up!
5. Make sure your tires are inflated.
While walking or biking to class is the best way to lessen your carbon footprint, there’s nothing wrong with having a car on campus as long as you're smart about it. Keeping your tires properly inflated can reduce your gas mileage by nearly three percent — that’s good for your wallet and the environment.
6. Throw away bottle caps.
Believe it or not, you shouldn’t recycle bottle caps. According to Harvard Law’s Facilities Management, removing the cap allows for evaporation and prevents residual liquid from remaining in the bottle. This extra liquid adds weight to the bottle, meaning more energy is required to transport the recyclables.
7. Turn off the lights.
This one is pretty self-explanatory: turn off the lights when you leave the room. However, you may need to think a little harder in college. What about the bathroom light or the hallway light? These are just as important as the light in your room.
8. Clean your refrigerator.
Whether you have a mini-fridge in your dorm or a full-sized one in your apartment, you should still clean the coils in the back of the unit. Though it depends on the make and model of your unit, these are usually easily accessible and can greatly improve your refrigerator’s efficiency. It's a win-win! Greater efficiency means less energy used, which also gives your appliance a longer life.
9. Cut down on styrofoam/plastic cups.
If you're anything like me, you absolutely have to have that morning cup of coffee. However, using styrofoam or plastic cups puts a huge stress on local landfills and is remarkably wasteful. Instead, try investing in a mug. Not only will you save money, because one mug is much cheaper than buying multiple bags of cups, but they’re so much cuter and save space in your dorm.
10. Cut the rings on six-pack packaging.
Finding the correct wording for this was difficult, but you know what I’m talking about. Those plastics rings that hold cans together and make them easier to carry? Yeah, these are incredibly dangerous for wildlife if they make it into the ocean, which many do. Sea turtles and other larger marine life can get their heads caught in these rings and die. So do the ocean a favor and simply cut the rings before disposal.
11. Pick up litter.
I’m not suggesting scraping somebody’s used gum off the sidewalk, because that's gross. But if you see someone left a cup or a piece of paper on a picnic table, just throw it away. Sure, it’s rude that they left it behind and it’s not really your responsibility, but every little bit helps. Besides, wildlife don't deserve to live in our trash.
12. Join an environmental club.
You don’t have to be an environmental sustainability major to care about the environment and want to make a difference. Joining a campus club can give you access to cool events, introduce you to like-minded people and spread the message. Not to mention, with so many of these clubs on campus, it’s really easy to find one that matches your interests.
All in all, people can cut waste in just about every aspect of their lives. All it takes is a little creativity and the willingness to change.
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