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Easy Ways for Students to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Next time you’re shotgunning a Natty Lite, make sure it gets recycled afterwards.

We’ve all been there—the frightening moment in time when you must conquer your fears and stealthily dispose of your food and eating utensils in one of the many, elusive Whole Foods trash cans. But which one do you use? You glance at the compost bin and think, “Why the hell do they have a bin for dirt?” A natural instinct is to trash anything and everything, but what happens when you take the time to sort trash from reusable items?

Reproducing products made from recycled products conserves energy, because the manufacturers don’t have to use raw materials. It reduces the need for landfills, recycling paper saves the lives of millions of trees and it helps cut back the destruction of ecosystems all over the world. On top of that, it also reduces carbon emissions and saves the atmosphere. So who recycles? Germany leads with a 65 percent recycling rate, followed by countries like South Korea, Austria and Belgium. Although the United States recycles at a rate of 35 percent, it is also the leading producer of waste. How do we solve this problem? Easy—reduce, reuse, recycle.

Still, as a college attendee, you’re busy: Between classes, working and being social, the three R’s might not be in your vocabulary. However, these universities have found a way to minimize their waste and maximize their efficiency regarding this practice. And if your college or city doesn’t acknowledge the immense importance of recycling, get the ball rolling yourself. Whether it’s saving water or creating a club on campus, your efforts will impact both your environment and community for the better.

Assuming you were alive and well any time in recent history, you’ve heard all of this before. You know that littering is wrong, so (hopefully) you aren’t doing it. While your intentions are surely good, if you don’t take the extra steps to conserve our resources and keep the earth clean, then your intentions are only going so far. Out of all of the creatures on this Earth, we’re the only species that is creating unnatural waste and disturbing the environment. Time after time, we hear people urging us to take responsibility for the damage we’ve done, but so many of us ignore their outcries and carry on with our lives.

Creating a healthier world doesn’t stop at putting your waste where it belongs. Shave with the water off, unplug things like chargers and toasters when you leave, reuse plastic and glass food containers and more. Did you know that recycling a single aluminum can conserves enough energy to run a TV for three hours?

And that that single can can be back on the shelves as a new product in as little as 60 days? Also, that there is no known limit to the number of times an aluminum product can be recycled? If college students everywhere acknowledged their personal impact on the Earth, there might be more incentive to act on it.

Each of us (on average) generates four pounds of waste each day, which results in about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year. The EPA estimates that 75 percent of Americans’ trash is recyclable, yet we only recycle 30 percent of it. The madness speaks for itself.

As monumental as this issue is, the solutions are simple. Rather than buy a cup of coffee, bring your own mug; it saves paper. Use cotton bags when shopping. Purchase a surge protector and when leaving for class, flip the switch off to save energy. If you really want to make a change, go vegetarian (sort of). Cattle rearing is even more toxic for the atmosphere than driving cars. However, you don’t have to quit cold turkey. Cutting meat from even just one or two meals a week can make a positive influence.

At the end of the day, no one wants to go on Facebook and see those tear-jerking videos of turtles with plastic rings around their necks; no one wants to drive home past an overflowing, putrid landfill; no one truly wants the Earth to suffer. If each person only took the time to put in a little more effort to conserve and reuse, our planet would already be on the path to a healthier life.

So remember folks, reduce, reuse, recycle and Rihanna.

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