What’s spherical in shape, massive in size, and seriously in need of TLC? If you guessed Earth, you are correct! Our home planet has weathered a lot of wear and tear over the past 4.5 billion years, and it seems like our negligence is finally catching up to us. In fact, global pollution and its negative implications is one of the world’s leading causes of death, with over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals being killed by pollution annually. What’s more, Americans account for just 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we are responsible for using 25 percent of the world’s precious natural resources – resources that will dry up one day, if we aren’t more careful.
Needless to say, environmental conservation is a hot topic in 2019 – and no, that wasn’t a clever climate change pun. Whether you’ve been long committed to saving the planet, or you’re shaken by recent news coverage detailing the dire consequences at-hand, there’s never been a better time to begin considering how you – yes, you! – can contribute to the fight for a healthier and happier planet Earth.
Luckily, it’s incredibly easy for college students to get in on the green movement with a few lifestyle tweaks. Read on for uCribs’ top tips for green-ifying your life, one small step at a time.
#1: Start Carrying Reusable Bags and Bottles
Think about your typical Saturday afternoon for a moment. If you’re like us, you spend your weekends checking items off your to-do list that you can’t get to during the week, like grocery shopping and picking up a thoughtful gift for your best friend’s birthday party. As a result, you likely end up with more plastic shopping bags than you can count – the very plastic bags that end up in landfills, where they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, or waterways, where they pollute the water itself— eventually ending up in fish or other marine animals’ digestive tracts.
While we’re on the topic of harmful plastics, let’s not forget those pesky plastic water bottles, which can do as much damage as plastic bags. Water bottles are readily available when you’re a college student, and although we’ll always applaud your dedication to staying hydrated with H2O, it’s time to pass on the plastic in favor of a more sustainable option. Fortunately, there are a ton of highly functional and stylish reusable bags and bottles on the market today, so it’s only a matter of time before you find one that “speaks” to you. And, once you do find that perfect accessory, you can rest easy knowing that a reusable bottle can replace thousands of throwaway bottles over its lifetime, while one tote bag can substitute for hundreds of plastic bags annually.
#2: Watch Your Apartment’s Energy Use
Want a no-brainer way to make the Earth a little greener? You’re in luck! As it turns out, keeping an eye on your apartment’s energy use – as in, how many lights you keep on and how cold you keep your thermostat – is a great way to preserve natural resources and reduce power plant emissions. Additionally, being a bit more miserly with your energy use will help you save precious pennies on monthly bills – and we all know how important this is during your college years!
But, what’s the big deal with power plant emissions, anyway? Most of us don’t realize the direct connection between our apartments’ energy use and the Earth’s natural supply of resources, but the truth is, every time you turn on your lights, you require power plants to burn coal, crude oil, and other fossil fuels to generate electricity. When your apartment’s energy demands go unchecked, this can lead to an overuse of these valuable resources, which in turn, create carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. These byproducts linger in the air, contributing to airborne pollution and the greenhouse effect. We’ll leave the rest of this environmental science lesson for the classroom but know this: the less you can use your apartment’s electrical power, the better off the planet and your wallet will be.
#3: Take Part in Recycling Programs
As a typical college student, you likely blow through a ton of loose-leaf paper, printer paper, sticky note paper… well, you get the idea. It’s safe to say that you have no problem stacking up piles of used paper products, but once that paper is used, where does it go? Unfortunately, the college student demographic isn’t as dutiful about recycling as they should be— although, there is a slowly growing body of evidence supporting the idea that recycling is becoming more popular with time. Nevertheless, if you’d like to responsibly dispose of the hundreds of pounds of waste you generate each year, it’s high time to jump on the recycling bandwagon.
Before you start envisioning burdensome trips to your city’s recycling center, allow us to remind you that your college or university likely has a student recycling program already in place. In fact, most institutions do their part to introduce green initiatives on campus, including organizing plastic bag drives and equipping every dining hall with a recycling bin. Participating is as easy as scouting out a designated receptacle and committing to a once or twice-weekly dump of your recyclable waste. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to say that you’ve “bin” on your recycling game for the benefit of our planet!
#4: Rethink Your Purchasing Habits
Admittedly, most of us enjoy buying new things. There’s something so satisfying about falling in love with a brand-new item and purchasing it on the spot. No wonder shopping is often called “retail therapy” – treating yourself to something new always seems to provide the best type of pick-me-up! However, if you’re hoping to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly, you may want to rethink how you buy new things. Actually, you may want to reconsider the “new” aspect of shopping altogether.
See, when you buy products secondhand, you save perfectly good clothing, appliances, books, and more from needlessly wasting away in a landfill. Further, buying secondhand is a small step toward preventing over-production, which happens when manufacturers create too many products to satiate demand. Finally, buying used items helps you save money, as most people can find lightly used items at a cut of the full retail price in stores, on apps, and through the web. So, next time you’re in the market for a new backpack or toaster oven, turn to your local thrift shop, Craigslist, eBay, or any number of resale apps – like LetGo and Mercari – to snag an awesomely-priced find that not only fills your personal need, but aims to prevent harmful overproduction and waste.
#5: Walk and Bike More Often
Looking to do your part for the environment and stay committed to your health and fitness goals? If so, then consider walking or biking to your destination more often than you hop in your car or hail an Uber. Doing so will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions being added to the environment – which the national Environmental Protection Agency estimate at 4.6 metric tons per passenger vehicle, each year! Even worse than polluting our air, these greenhouse gases trap the Sun’s heat in our planet’s atmosphere; thereby, overheating the Earth and causing a whole heap of trouble for our various organisms and habitats.
Aside from being a far more Earth-friendly option than driving, walking and biking are excellent exercise options for students hoping to keep off the Freshman 15 – which, as we all know, can strike during any year, not just freshman year – or maintain their already healthy weight. You can even make your trek more sociable by inviting friends to join you as you go from place to place. And, might we add that walking and biking deliver a super boost of cognitive benefits to your brain, making your study sessions much more fruitful. See? There’s seriously no reason not to give walking or biking a try!
It might seem that climate change, increased pollution, and other environmental concerns are too big for us to solve – especially when experts give us another 10 years before our negligence seriously hits the fan. But, you might be surprised to learn that even small efforts made toward improving our world can add up over time – especially if you get your friends in on it. Why not do your part to help our world experience a better tomorrow? Adopt these super-simple, green-friendly habits now, and you’ll not only show your compassion for the Earth and all of its creatures, but you’ll also be laying the foundation for a lifetime of responsible, eco-friendly living.