Climate change is real.
Humans are harming the environment and that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. We dump chemicals into the ocean and harm other animals on this Earth. We pollute our atmosphere with overwhelming amounts of carbon dioxide.
As college students, it’s easy to feel helpless and think that this problem is beyond our ability to solve. However, everyone and anyone can do their part to make sure we reduce our own carbon footprint to alleviate this problem. Here are 7 easy ways you can become more environmentally friendly without deviating much from your usual lifestyle.
1. Bike/Take public transportation instead of taking Uber.
Cars release tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day and are one of the biggest problems contributing to climate change produced by humans. By taking public transportation like the metro, bus, or investing in a bike, we can reduce our carbon dioxide impact on the environment.
One less Uber ride may not seem much, but in the long run, that impact adds up quickly. By taking alternatives to a regular car to travel around, not only can you reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll also be saving a ton of money. Save that $25 Uber cost to Santa Monica and spend it on textbooks or food instead!
2. Stop using straws and plastic stirring sticks.
We’re all capable adults who don’t need straws to be able to drink out of a cup. Sure, straws are convenient, but they also create large amounts of plastic waste that is extremely hard to dispose of. Instead, drink out of your own reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste.
For Starbucks addicts, avoid using the green plastic "splash sticks" to mix your drink. Instead, use the wooden stirring sticks, which are easier to take care of as waste than plastic sticks are.
3. Bring your own bags to grocery stores.
Grocery stores all over the US have started to incentivize people to bring their own bags, including charging extra for bags as well as banning plastic bags altogether. Most stores charge 5 to 10 cents per bag, and most of the time consumers disregard that amount as insignificant.
However, Spending 10 cents every time you grocery shop, assuming you shop once a week, adds up to almost $5 per year. Combined with other types of stores that also charge extra for bags, that amount can double or even triple. Instead of spending money on bags that will harm the environment, spend it on slightly pricier organic foods or a few cups of coffee.
4. Buy from eco-friendly brands and packaging.
This option may be more challenging, as more environmentally friendly products tend to be pricier. However, using the money saved up from bringing reusable bags to grocery stores, students can choose alternatives to big name brands that may be less harmful to the environment.
For example, there are many alternatives to laundry detergents that are not only eco-friendly but affordable as well. When buying milk or eggs, choose the products packaged using cardboard instead of plastic. Although a lot of the plastic packaging claim to be recyclable, not all of them can be recycled to the same level as paper-based packaging.
5. Give feedback to your school’s student government and demand more eco-friendly measures.
Many colleges have already started initiatives to transform their campuses into an environmentally friendly university, but a lot of colleges have not. The University of California school system has pushed for Zero Waste 2020, and has already diverted 69% of their trash from landfills.
However, other schools like my own college, USC, don’t even have recycling bins around campus. Make sure to reach out to your own campus about waste reduction as well as proper recycling practices. If a whole body of students demands more eco-friendly measures, universities are more likely to put those initiatives in place.
6. Avoid food products that use palm oil.
Palm oil has been linked to rainforest deforestation, which is extremely detrimental to our environment. Yet, many common food and home products still use palm oil knowing its effects. Popular food products such as Oreos and Pepperidge Farm cookies contain palm oil, while beauty brands such as Lancome and Neutrogena also use palm oil in their products.
When buying food and beauty products, check the ingredients of the good to see if they contain palm oil, and avoid buying products that do. Instead of Oreos, there are many alternative cookies that taste just as good without using palm oil. For beauty, there are even more brands to choose from.
7. Be mindful of your environmental impact.
It’s hard to constantly keep track of every single action that could harm the environment, and there’s no need to do that.
If every person is aware of the impact they’re leaving behind on the environment, as a whole society, we can greatly reduce our harmful environmental impacts.
Doing simple things like taking the metro instead of Ubering, throwing something recyclable into an actual recycle bin, and buying products that don’t contain palm oil are easy steps everyone can take without drastically altering their normal habits and patterns.
Since these methods don’t take much effort, “it takes too much time” or “I don’t have the power to help” are not excuses. Humans have exploited the environment too much already, so it is not a debate of whether we should or shouldn’t do something.
We have an obligation to limit the harm we inflict on our planet after everything we have already done.