Finally, a reason to feel good about your unwashed laundry.
By Maya Merberg, SUNY Geneseo
When you’re trying to be environmentally friendly, just being in college is an advantage.
You’re probably not driving much, and sharing your living space and amenities means you’re being less wasteful.
But that doesn’t mean it’s fine to stop caring and trying to do more.
The more rewarding choice, rather, would be to capitalize on the benefits of being a college student and at least try to reduce the general shitting-all-over-Earth trend our species seems to be following.
Here are five easy ways college students can be better to the environment.
Climate change and other human-caused environmental disasters are often closely related to how we use—and waste—energy.
So our most direct source of energy, food, influences the health of the environment just as much as the health of our bodies.
You probably know by now that animal agriculture is a massive contributor to global warming. One of the single most effective lifestyle changes an individual can make to reduce their contribution to climate change is eating less meat. Lots of people have taken to eating solely plant-based diets for this very reason. But going totally vegetarian or vegan can be difficult and intimidating.
Altering your diet doesn’t have to be all or nothing—just cutting back on meat and animal products can make an impact. Some people try going vegetarian one day out of the week, or eating one meatless meal per day.
It’s also better for the environment to eat food that is less processed and packaged. The act of processing food exerts a lot of energy, and eating more raw and whole food is probably better for you anyway. Food packaging is easy to forget about and disregard because we’re so accustomed to it, but it adds up to an astonishing amount of waste.
Another advantage to living on a college campus is that you have access to non-packaged and overly processed food that you don’t have to cook yourself. Cheetos may seem more appetizing than dining hall green beans, but think of which one Mother Earth, and also probably your real mother, would prefer you chose.
Speaking of food waste, composting is the best way to get rid of it. Everyone already knows to recycle. But lots of scraps that you can’t recycle, you can compost (leftover food, coffee grounds, tea bags). This is probably super hard to do while living in the dorms, but is a great option for when you move off campus.
Also, if you live in a house with any sort of yard, grow a vegetable garden or something similar. It’s a better use of land than grass, and you can eat low-waste food right from your yard, epitomizing the locavore movement. Then, if you compost, you can use what you produce as fertilizer in your garden to help it grow.
Don’t Drink and Drive
Just don’t drive, period. Most students don’t drive much anyways, especially if their campuses are small. But I’ve seen people drive the two minutes to class just because it’s cold out or they don’t want to walk up a slight hill.
If you do live on a bigger or more sprawling campus, taking public transport is far more energy efficient. Refraining from driving will also save gas money and get you moving a little more.
Save Energy and Water
Stop drinking water—you don’t need it and you’re wasting it. Just kidding.
But be careful about how much you use. Limit your laundry, if you can possibly do it more scarcely than you already do.
Also, some garments specify that they can only be washed in cold water but hardly any need to be washed in warm water. Doing all your laundry in cold water saves a lot of energy and usually gets your clothes just as clean.
I’ve already mentioned ways to save energy, but just being aware that every ounce of it matters can help. Using “Blackle” instead of Google can even save energy because the search engine’s background doesn’t emit as much white light as Google’s.
Advocate on Campus
Your school might already have a student-run club or organization dedicated to environmental causes—join it! If not, start one. There are so many students on literally every campus nowadays who would be interested in joining. Not only that, but school administration would likely be pretty open to an organization’s input and influence around campus. Being eco-friendly can be a big selling point to prospective students, so the school will probably be pretty receptive to increasing its appeal in that area. (They also might actually care about their planet.)
There might be a specific department your school has that works solely to make the campus a more environmentally friendly place. Get in contact with them—they might be looking to collaborate with your organization or in the market for student interns. My college is pretty small but still has an office of sustainability. I can’t stress this last point enough—small changes still make an impact but when groups of students and school administrators collaborate, so much more can be accomplished.