College students can be some of the world’s busiest people, but are also uniquely suited to help save the environment in a lot of ways. Think about it – not many people regularly carry a bookbag with them, have access to a ton of water bottles, drive relatively little, have easy access to vegetarian dining options, etc. With Earth Day only 12 days away, we want to use this week’s blog post to answer the question “What are some ways that such a busy person can help the environment?”
1. Reusable Water Bottles
While undoubtedly convenient, no one is arguing that water bottles have a generally negative impact on the environment. According to the Container Recycling Institute, nearly 60 million water bottles are discarded into landfills every year, a number that doesn’t include the amount that ends up in our oceans, nor considers factors like the pollution created by shipping said water bottles, the millions of barrels of oil used in producing the plastic bottles, the health effects of drinking from plastic bottles, etc. Reusable water bottles can help offset all of these by a significant amount, and with plenty of options to help you rep your school while staying hydrated, how hard could it be? And if buying a Nalgene proves to be just too much effort, you can at least reuse the plastic water bottle you’ve already bought. Feel like taking it one step further? Someone’s even created a reusable solo cup. You go, reusable solo cup guy, you go.
2. Leg Day Er’ry Day
Depending on where you go to school you may or may not have to pay a totally ridiculous amount to park on campus. Do your wallet, the other drivers, and the environment a favor – walk, take the bus, ride a longboard. It all helps the environment, your budget, and your Fitbit stats.
3. Meatless Mondays
Estimates vary based on who you ask, but most sources agree that being a carnivore goes hand-in-hand with environmental damage of some sort. Greenhouse gases, energy waste, and negative effects on taxes and subsidies (oh my!). But the question we really need to ask is, “has it ever been easier for you to go meatless one day a week?” Or “will it ever be easier for you to go meatless on Mondays?” Odds are that you’re taking advantage of a meal plan right now, and that you will always have a vegetarian option available to you while you do. So, why not?
4. There’s an App for That
I’m an avid Evernoter – and I understand that not everyone will be, but with the number of options out there it seems silly that anyone is still taking paper notes. It’s wasteful, yes, but there’s more to it than that – it’s comparatively expensive, unorganized, and time-consuming as well. Zapier does a pretty good job of laying out the pros and cons of various note-taking services you’ll more than likely find in your app store – but we recommend that you try a few out for yourself, and experience the joy first-hand of not having to lug around an assortment of notebooks with you to every class, while saving some trees in the process.
5. But it was 99 cents!
The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing every year, and when you factor in other textile products, this accounts for about 6% of total waste. One way to cut down on this (and save some money) is to buy gently used clothes. And you’re not necessarily limited to the Good Will – new online options such as TheRealReal, ThredUp, Swap.com, Yoogi’s Closet and others allow you to buy designer clothing and accessories second-hand. And when it comes time for you to throw away last season’s items, just spend the extra 10 minutes dropping it off at your local thrift shop, or even listing it one one of these sites – an inexpensive, relatively effortless way to save the environment one piece of clothing at a time.
6. Reduce, reuse…you know the rest.
We all know why it’s important. What is perplexing is why it can be so difficult. At Aspen Heights you can simply ask your concierge for a handful of recycling bags and leave your recyclables in your waste collection bin, but at other locations it can be a huge struggle. For those in need, read this article about creative ways to responsibly get rid of your recyclables, or use the Recycle Finder website to find a recycling center near you.
7. Do you really need that plastic bag?
Bringing reusable bags with you to the grocery store is one thing, but think about some of the other places where you pick up plastic bags. Fast food joints, the campus bookstore, Target, Barnes and Noble – all places that try to load you up with as many plastic bags as possible on your way out the door. An estimated 40-80% of marine debris (which is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds in areas like the North Pacific Gyre) is comprised of plastic products like plastic bags, plastic bottles, used lighters, etc., and landfills are also often bogged down by tons of plastic bags every year. When factoring in these effects along with the effects on wildlife, pollution created from the production of these bags, the cost of petroleum products used in the process, etc. – why not use reusable bags? As college students, we’re uniquely qualified to tell that clerk at 7-11 or that cashier at the campus book store to hold on the plastic bags – because there’s a 50% chance we’ve already got a backpack. So buy some reusable bags (bonus points for grabbing a cute one from Etsy or asking your friendly leasing office if they have any complimentary ones available), keep them in the trunk of your car, and try to remember that you can use your backpack to transport that Quizno’s sub you just picked up.
8. Go Shopping!
In 2013 Amazon.com started Amazon Smile – an initiative that lets customers choose which charitable organization receives the automatic donation of .5% of all purchase made using the service. Every quarter, Amazon totals the amount generated by users who have selected a particular charity, and after 45 days sends the accrued amount to such charities as the Nature Conservancy, the American Red Cross, the ASPCA, and a myriad of others. Even more exciting? Amazon will allow all sorts of charitable organizations to register, so your student organization or hometown charity might just be candidates for an Amazon Smile profile of their own. Not that you needed any more justification for your online shopping habit.
Did We Miss Anything?
We missed a ton! But we’re curious to hear what lifehacks you’ve found that help you do to your part. Did you find a use for old school papers or program your thermostat or find out your hoverboard is remarkably eco-friendly? Whatever it is, we invite you to use the comments to tell us all about it – because the more people that know, the better off we all are. Thanks!