College is full of opportunities and choices. You can reinvent yourself and discover passions you never knew existed. One passion that I want to share is a love for the environment and sustainability. Issues around sustainability have been important for many decades and now, as climate change continues to get worse and worse, it is on us as a generation and as a people to make wise decisions. Many of these decisions can be made in college and this article shares some specific places in which you can make them.
1. In the shower.
Shower with a friend! If that option doesn’t appeal to you, try using music. When you go for your shower, take your phone and queue a few songs you enjoy. Try and keep track of how many songs you listen to by the end of that first shower. The next day, try and reduce the number of songs it takes you to complete your shower – sing along, too! Keep doing this till you reduce your shower to just one song. Then challenge yourself to shorten it further. Can you complete your shower before the second chorus?
2. In the dining hall.
Try to use a smaller plate and avoid using a tray in the dining hall. Both of these actions have staggering impacts on the reduction of aggregate food waste in college cafeterias. A smaller plate also ensures that you eat smaller portions and that you are making healthier choices. A study conducted at Tufts University (a school that has eliminated trays in both dining halls) concluded that tray-less dining lead to a reduction of food waste by 30% and in electricity usage by 17.5%.
Additionally, if you are non-vegetarian, you can make the decision to go meatless every Monday. Meat, on average, uses more water to produce 1 kilocalorie, and therefore, the consumption of vegetables is better for the environment.
3. At events with food.
College events are notorious for having way too much free food and while delicious, unfortunately, a majority of this food goes to waste. Many schools have created systems to ensure that the food is distributed to local partners, but this doesn’t exist in all schools. If you are organizing an event and know that there might be food left over, take to Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to share with your friends and the community that there is pizza up for grabs – they’ll owe you one.
MIT created an incredibly inventive solution for this. Click here to watch a short video by Vox explaining it.
4. In the bookstore.
Here’s a tip for the environment and for your wallet. Try and use secondhand books and/or share a textbook with a friend. Secondhand textbooks are often considerably cheaper, and, if you get lucky, you’ll find notes in the margins that will make the endless readings a lot easier to understand. If you choose this strategy, make sure that the course doesn’t require a unique code for accessing your professor’s materials because it may have already been used. Sharing a book with a friend will usually work if you have different schedules so each person can study at different times, but don’t stress about it too much – you’ll find a solution that works!
5. In your dorm.
Recycle! Upcycle! Reuse! Buy smart! There are so many ways in which you can make smart and environmentally conscious decisions in your dorm. A simple place to start is to try and have two bins in your room that both you and your roommate share; one for normal trash and another for dry recyclables. Another way is to order items online together. This will ensure that everything is packaged together and will reduce the environmental implications of packaging — something that people often don’t consider. Try to keep a large canister of water that you can use to refill your bottles with, instead of a 24-pack of water bottles. Again, this is cheaper and far better for the environment.
A final suggestion is to visit the "used sale" in the first few weeks of school. You can usually find some great box-fans, table lamps, shelfs, laundry bags, etc. for a fraction of the cost, and re-use something that has already been produced.
Looking after yourself in college is important, but stop to consider the ways in which you can make small lifestyle changes to look after your environment. Some are easier than others, but if you do even one of these gradually, you will make a difference. Making sustainable choices is about more than hugging trees, but you can continue hugging them if you want to!
Lead Image Credit: Pexels