“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” —John Muir
Everyone has a responsibility to do their part to protect good ol’ Mother Nature. We are surrounded by options for how to live cleaner lives and yet are largely still stuck in this whole “eat, buy, consume” mentality.
It’s much harder to climb out of a hole than it is to dig one, well, unless it’s a really deep hole. Here are some ways that every student can do their part, with minimum disruption to their daily life.
But first… some inspiration!
Avoid to-go containers and plastic bags
Whether you live on or off campus, we all need food. To further reduce waste and avoid contact with the chemicals in take-out containers, try to eat in when you can. Most cafeterias have dishes that can be used as an alternative to eat-and-trash containers. Same goes, as we all know, for plastic bags. Plus, cloth bags are much more aesthetically pleasing.
When to-go containers are unavoidable, try saving them rather than immediately disposing of them. As an art student, I find that plastic container lids make great paint pallets and I use the cups to hold the water to clean my brushes. There are plenty of ways to satisfy the reuse part of Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Walk, bike > public transit > cars
Leave the car at home. If it’s too far to walk or too cold to bike (hello, winter), you can also take public transit to help cut down on emissions.
Re-use textbooks (and everything else)
Buying new textbooks every semester is both costly and wasteful. Most schools will have a used book store that sells textbooks at a significantly lower price. Also, check out BookMob, where you can search and buy or rent used textbooks. On that note, be sure to sell the books you aren’t using back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.
Re-using furniture, movies, clothes and anything that can possibly be found at a thrift store is also a good option. Buying anything on a student budget can be a challenge. When it comes to furnishings, antique markets and thrift stores have almost everything you need at lower prices.
Re-useable water bottles
I know, I know. Everyone knows this one. And yet somehow plastic bottles are still one of the biggest contributors to pollution world-wide.
Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s terrifying.
National Geographic puts it best: “Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.” According to the David Suzuki Foundation it also takes more water to produce a single bottle of water than the bottle itself will hold. Bottles end up in landfills or are consumed by unsuspecting wildlife. Need I say more? Reusable water bottles are a much cleaner and more cost efficient way to go. I have had success with both Klean Kanteen and S’Well bottles.
Buy recycled. Duplex print.
The paper problem is complex. Forests are being clear cut to enable our paper habit, releasing carbon that contributes to our ever prominent air-pollution problem, but relying on computers is not an option for everyone. Furthermore, electronic waste is becoming a big problem as well. Although the casing of your laptop may seem fairly harmless, the chemicals and heavy metals inside the laptop, when broken down, seep into the water table and contaminate our groundwater.
Typing out notes is a good idea. However, slow typers, and math and science students who have to write out equations might not necessarily have that option. In that case, I recommend buying recycled paper and notebooks. I hand write all my notes with Decomposition Notebooks, which have 100% post-consumer waste recycled pages and are printed with soy-based inks.
If you have to print an assignment, remember to duplex print (printing on both sides of the paper). And no, this is not a wrestling move. That’s a suplex.
Consider chemical air-freshener alternatives
Although I myself do not live in a dorm room, I have heard from several reliable sources that they smell like feet. The solution most people turn to is chemical air-fresheners. Unfortunately, these may release a temporary “pine fresh” or “tropical breeze” scent, but they do anything but freshen your air. “Indoor chemical pollution” has a myriad of nasty side effects. Lucky for you, there is an all-natural alternative.
Although I myself do not live in a dorm room, I have heard from several reliable sources that they smell like feet.
It’s time to invest in a clean air plant! These plants filter toxins out of the air rather than adding more pollutants. I have a Philodendron in my room and can personally vouch for its effects. They will also add some much needed aesthetic to any room to literally go green.
Get involved on campus
Every campus will have a staunch and friendly group dedicated to helping the environment. If this is something that interests you, joining provides opportunities for education as well as meeting new people with similar interests. If not, try and go out to their events and show your support for the cause!
There are also many online communities that need people to sign petitions, send letters and get the word out about what’s happening. They do everything from fight for the right to a healthy environment, to stopping poaching of endangered species. David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace are great options, as well as WWF, Nature Canada, Audubon, The National Wildlife Federation and The Environmental Working Group.
Long list, I know, but I find that people like options. Take a look and see which one is right for you!
ED. Note: We’re sure you have good tips to make the world a little greener. Add your student-friendly tips below!
Photos courtesy of Unsplash
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.