As college students, we are beginning our adult lives. Most of us are moving out on our own for the first time, having the responsibility to buy things for ourselves, and generally make choices that we will make for the rest of our lives. For the first time. What to eat, what to wear, how to get where we need to go, what to do in our free time. It’s a lot of new responsibility but it is also a great opportunity.
An opportunity to go green.
I’ve always cared about the environment, but I never considered myself an environmentalist. I paid attention to products I shouldn’t buy that were harming our environment, took the bus around instead of using a car, and recycled. But I was pretty passive in my approach.
And then I went home for winter break and watched the movie “Before the Flood.” For those of you who have seen it, you’ve probably had a pretty similar experience to myself. Afterward, I felt much more enlightened about the ways our environment is hurting and how huge my role in it is. I was angry at myself but I knew just being angry wouldn’t help. I needed to actually make some change.
Climate change is the biggest problem facing our world today because it affects every single person that inhabits it. And it is in each of our hands to make a change.
I spent winter break researching different ways to lessen my impact, products I shouldn’t use, and alternatives to them. I even bought a book, “Wake Up and Smell the Planet" by Grist, offering everyday ways to be green. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about all the things I would need to change once I went back to college life.
Being green on campus is not always easy. There are a few barriers in our way as college students (money, time, access), but, as I said before, there is no time better than when you are just beginning your adult life to make it a green one.
To get you started, here are some of the easy switches I made in my dorm life.
1. Use reusable grocery bags.
While many places are starting to ban plastic bags in stores (yay!), not everywhere has. Bringing your own bag to the store takes one thing of plastic out of your life and makes a step to rid plastic out of our lives once and for all. If you’re a broke college student that doesn’t already have reusable bags, collect five or six brown paper bags on your next shopping trip and reuse them! No one said you had to get all fancy; whatever works!
2. Invest in a reusable water bottle.
The benefits of a reusable water bottle are plentiful. They encourage you to drink more water, they take one more thing of plastic out of your life, and they help the environment! Win, win, win! If your school doesn’t already ban plastic water bottles, start a petition today!
3. Read the ingredients! Avoid palm oil!
We should all be better informed consumers. Take a minute to look around your room and read the ingredient list of the food and other products you may have. You should know what goes into what you are buying. Next, if you see palm oil (or its other names), do not restock after it is depleted! Read more about how big a problem palm oil is. Of course, if you have bought something, do not just throw it away; that defeats our entire purpose. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Switch to products that are natural when you run out of the ones you are currently using.
If you notice you are using something with palm oil, or other nasty chemicals, or that uses way too much plastic, finish it up and move on! Find an alternative that is better for yourself and for this planet. And since money is at the forefront of every college student’s mind, here are some natural alternatives that are actually cheaper:
At Walgreens: Arm & Hammer Essentials Deodorant with Natural Deodorizers Fresh, $3.49 (vs Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant Deodorant Cool Essentials, $5.99)
At Target: Blue Diamond® Almond Breeze® Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk - 32 fl oz, $1.99 (vs Nestle® Coffee-Mate Original Coffee Creamer - 16oz, $3.39)
5. Buy in bulk.
If your local supermarket has a bulk section, use it up! Not only can you buy in the quantity of exactly how much you need (eliminating waste), but you can bring in reusable containers to fill up. No plastic!
6. Take the bus! (Or, you know, walk.)
It’s a no-brainer that cars are a huge pollutant, so it should be a no-brainer to avoid using them as much as possible. Learning to use public transit is a great skill to have and a green one too. Riding on the bus exposes you to less pollution than riding in a car because you are further away from the tailpipes floating along (check out Grist for more)! And if the place you’re going is in walking distance, stretch those legs and enjoy the benefits of exercise. Get those steps in!
7. See if your school has an environmental club you can join.
Don’t go in on this alone! Find a club, or make your own, dedicated to taking care of the environment. Having a few friends that are working to be sustainable with you will make things so much easier. You can feel like you’re making a real difference with a community of others.
Good luck in going green! It's never too early to start making a difference in this world.