How To Help The Environment In College

10 Ways To Go Green In College, And Maybe Save A Little Green Too

Because we can all use a little more green.

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A lot of college-aged students are very conscious about how they affect the environment, and how they affect their wallets. Here are 10 ways that you can help the environment while at college, and how you might help your wallet a little too.

1. Use a reusable water bottle.

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No, it does not have to be a Hydroflask, but a cheap water bottle from Walmart will be a life saver to the planet and your wallet. You won't have to spend money on plastic water bottles every week and you don't have to worry about using too many plastic or paper cups at the dining hall.

2. Bring a reusable bag to the store.

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Canvas tote bags are sold for pretty cheap at the checkout line of most grocery stores, so try picking one or two up. Since you're only shopping for yourself, you can probably fit it all in one tote, plus you'll be reducing the number of plastic bags that are being used. Also, since some states charge a tax for each paper or plastic bag you use, you'll save yourself some extra coin.

3. Take notes on your laptop.

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I know the debate on whether or not laptops are "environmentally friendly" is still ongoing, especially because of what happens to them after we're done using them, but, you can help save some trees by taking your notes in class on a laptop. It will greatly reduce the number of notebooks and loose leaf paper that you use and will save you the money from buying them.

4. Order out less.

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I know this one is difficult because caf food is straight up nasty, but try. When you order out food, it usually comes with a lot more one-use packaging than when you go out to eat. Plus, you'll save more money. If you really want to eat out, try finding somewhere close by that you can walk to.

5. Don't take the flyers if you're not interested.

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There seems to always be that person standing out in the cold passing out flyers on your way to class. And, if you're anything like me, you always take one with a smile because you want to be a nice person. Try not taking them. These pieces of paper usually end up at the bottom of your bag and are just thrown out when you finally clean it out at the end of the semester. Or worse, they end up on the ground 5 feet from the person handing them out. Just politely decline and save the earth.

6. Don't print out everything for class.

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I know the urge to print out all of the syllabuses and readings is strong but try to avoid it. Most professors don't care if you use your laptop in class, so take advantage. Try only printing out the stuff you NEED to.

7. Put plants in your dorm.

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Dorm room air is stale as all hell, so try buying a couple of low-maintenance plants (like succulents) and putting them around your room. They're super cute, they can make your room feel homier, and they're great for the environment.

8. Have a place for recycling in your dorm.

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Dorm room air is stale as all hell, so try buying a couple of low-maintenance plants (like succulents) and putting them around your room. They're super cute, they can make your room feel homier, and they're great for the environment.

9. Buy and use Tupperware.

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If you find yourself swiping food from the caf or bringing snacks to class, try buying some Tupperware. Nothing big, it really just has to be one or two pieces (preferably glass, they hold up longer than the plastic and are better for the environment). Throw them in your bag to hold your stolen food or class snacks. You'll use less plastic bags and plastic wraps, so you won't be spending as much.

10. Buy online textbooks.

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Make sure that your professors are okay with laptops being used in class, but if they are, try buying online textbooks. Online textbooks help to reduce the amount of paper used by a lot since most textbooks can be up to 300 pages long. Also, since companies don't have to spend the money to print and distribute the book, you'll save too.

I know some of these aren't possible for everyone, but whatever little thing you can do to help does make a difference.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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Being Sustainable Is Hard But It's Not Impossible

Although we've all heard of climate change and have witnessed the disastrous effects that humans have had on the environment, it still seems like most people are not subscribing to the ideals of sustainability.

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Sustainability is a tricky term. Most people that hear about it eventually put in the back of their minds, the same place they put "student loans" and "crippling depression." Most people know that to adhere to this ideal would mean to change how they live.

Sustainability is about adopting behaviors and systems that will ensure that the Earth is around for many generations after ours. Sustainability aims to preserve the Earth in terms of seven generations ahead. Seven generations after ours and societies on Earth will be using entirely different systems than what we do now, therefore, we should start this process now to ensure that they will be able to live comfortably and sustainably.

This is where most people tune out, understandably so. It's hard for us to think about the implications of our actions and how they will affect life on Earth much after our own deaths. It suddenly seems like an incomprehensible problem that no one person can ever solve.

"My actions won't make a difference," most people say, convinced that just because they stop eating meat or buying plastic or start drinking from paper straws, that nothing will change. However, what they fail to consider is how their actions will influence the minds of others around them, and one person who stops eating meat or using plastic sends a ripple effect through the people surrounding them. One person making lifestyle changes in the name of sustainability leads others to suddenly consider, "maybe I should eat less meat?" or "maybe I won't use single-use plastics anymore?"

The idea is not that any one person picking up plastic on the beach is going to save the planet, but rather that through education and awareness, we will all take small steps to preserve our home. Large groups of people all taking small steps leads to big changes, and politics and the economy will follow the demand of the people.

The most difficult thing for most people to do is to adopt those small behavioral changes. Not everyone can afford to stop eating meat, but everyone can afford to opt out of single-use plastics. Buying a personal water bottle is one easy way to do this. Stop buying plastic water bottles just to throw them away. If you need to buy them, make sure to recycle them. Instead of taking plastic silverware and straws from restaurants, bring your own reusable set.

Understandably, most of you are already cringing. It's hard to go against the grain and commit to living a plastic-free lifestyle for the sake of sustainability. And what about when you go to Chipotle with your zero-waste kit and somebody asks you a question about why you have that? Fear or convincing themselves that it's "inconvenient" will keep most of you from adopting these little changes that, over time, make a huge difference in the amount of plastic we put in our oceans.

Although we can't all be leaders of huge sustainability efforts to clean our oceans or buy an electric car, we can all make small changes to mitigate this tragic problem. On our current track, the last half of our lives will be starkly different from the first half, for the worse. Educate yourself and be part of the solution instead of the problem.

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