As an environmental engineering student, being green is SUPER important to me. However, I’ve been noticing how difficult it can be to cut down waste and recycle at college. Here are my nine tips on how to be greener at school.
1. Reusable mugs and cups
Instead of using single-use water bottles or getting disposable coffee cups with your order at Starbucks, invest in a reusable cup. It will cut back a lot on waste, and some companies even sell their own reusable mugs they will fill up for you (i.e. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Einstein’s).
2. Recycling bin
Typically, dorms come with two trash bins: one for you and one for your roommate. However, it’s super easy to designate one for recycling. If your university does not have a recycling program, talk to your student reps and see what can be done.
3. Join a club!
I have never heard of a university without some type of environmental awareness club. Through these clubs, you will be able to get more information and opportunities about being green. I know that the environmental group at my university even plans trips to help clean up areas where wildlife may be affected by pollution, as well as small projects around campus.
4. Reuse folders/bins/organizers
If it’s not broken, don’t throw it out! Reusing folders and different organizers from semester to semester not only cuts down on waste but it will save you money as well.
5. Reusable containers
A great alternative to take-out containers (and my favorite way to sneak food out of the dining hall) are reusable containers. It’s honestly the best investment I’ve made. Between delivery pizza and microwaved leftovers, the reusable containers have saved me plenty of meal swipes. Check online for some reusable container ideas.
6. Change how you do laundry.
I think I used those laundry pods twice before I gave them away. It takes up a lot of waste to make them, not to mention they ruined three of my t-shirts. So, I went to just liquid detergent (no pod). Click here for a list of tested eco-friendly laundry detergents.
Another tip is to wash your clothes with cold water. Hot water uses a lot more energy. 90% of the energy it takes to wash clothes goes to heating the water.
7. Find textbooks online.
Personally, this is my favorite tip. This will save tons of paper and save you hundreds of dollars. Especially in today’s day and age, more and more textbooks can be found online for a much cheaper price, maybe even free. If, somehow, you can’t find your textbook online, go ahead and rent it, or buy it used. It’s still less expensive than buying a brand new textbook.
8. Change how you get around.
Find out what transportation services are available on campus. For example, Rutgers has a shuttle service to get you from campus to campus. Rowan University has a shuttle service that will take you from Glassboro to Camden. University of Delaware has a train station super close to its campus.
Taking public transportation cuts down on traffic and pollution, and it can be cheaper than Uber or Lyft. Most of the time, shuttle services on campus will be free for students.
9. Change your eating habits.
Vegan and vegetarian diets have less environmental impact because of the amount of water used in its production. Now, just like most college kids, I like a good burger once in a while. Even though I'm not completely vegetarian/vegan, I still make an effort to eat more meatless meals.
Being green is a lot easier than people think it is. If we all make small changes to our routine, it can make a much bigger difference in our world.
*Note: This article would not have been possible without the help of the President of Rowan Environmental Action League, Tricia Hurley. The photo below was taken by Brianna Cahill.