Friday, February 23, 2024

Making College Life More Sustainable On and Off Campus

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For college students, adopting a sustainable lifestyle not only benefits the environment but also establishes healthier habits that can persist beyond graduation. 

Embracing eco-friendly practices proves advantageous not just for our planet, but also for our wallets, mental well-being, and overall development as responsible global citizens. Moreover, it can be a topic for students’ research for a cause-and-effect essay, dissertation, or diploma paper.

How to make college life more sustainable

You don’t have to up-end your life to make your college experience more sustainable, either. Minor adjustments can yield significant results in terms of sustainability.

Eat sustainably: local, organic, vegan

As a college student, living sustainably goes beyond recycling and reducing energy consumption; it also involves making conscious choices about the foods you eat. Opting for locally-sourced and organic foods can considerably lessen your ecological footprint while simultaneously providing a multitude of health advantages.

Find nearby farmers’ markets and make it a habit to shop there regularly. You’ll discover a variety of fresh, local, and organic produce while also connecting with the people who grow your food.

I Am Vegan Babe
I Am Vegan Babe | Courtesy

Investigate your campus dining services and look for options that prioritize local and organic ingredients. Some colleges even have farm-to-table programs or partnerships with local farms. A growing number of college and university campuses are bringing healthier, more sustainable options to campus like vegan meat, milk, and egg options.

And, if you possess a modest outdoor area or a well-lit windowsill, think about cultivating your herbs, vegetables, or fruits. This allows you to establish a connection with the food you consume while minimizing your environmental influence. Some college campuses operate gardens you can spend time working at as well.

Can’t grow your own?

If you’re in a space where you can do some cooking, many local farms offer CSA programs where you can purchase a share of their harvest. You’ll receive regular deliveries of fresh, seasonal produce while supporting local agriculture.

Collaborate with friends, dorm mates, or housemates to prepare meals using local and organic ingredients. This not only reduces your food waste but also fosters a sense of community and raises awareness about sustainable food choices.

Start composting

See if your campus has a composting program in place. Often, kitchens are already doing this and you can bring your dorm room scraps there, too. By transforming organic waste into nutrient-dense compost, you can reduce the volume of waste directed to landfills while simultaneously producing a valuable asset for gardening and plant cultivation.

compost bin and woman holding a banana
Compost food scraps to keep them from going to the landfill. | SHVETS Production via Unsplash

For those residing in dorms or apartments, think about utilizing a compact countertop compost bin equipped with a snug lid to manage odors. Alternatively, join forces with fellow students to create a communal composting system on campus or within your neighborhood. Employ the completed compost for indoor plants, or community gardens, or share it with others. By adopting composting practices, you’ll actively participate in fostering a more eco-friendly and sustainable college environment.

Use reusable water bottles and containers 

By transitioning away from single-use plastics, you can substantially decrease the volume of plastic waste generated on campus. Moreover, utilizing reusable bottles and containers proves cost-effective in the long term, as it eliminates the need for constant disposable item purchases.

cucumber water
Cucumber water. | Photo Courtesy Maddi Bazzocco

To incorporate this environmentally responsible habit into your college routine, invest in a top-quality reusable water bottle and food containers. Opt for materials such as stainless steel or BPA-free plastic, which offer durability and safety for daily usage. Carry your reusable bottle with you throughout the day, replenishing it at water fountains or hydration stations on campus. 

Store your meals and snacks in reusable containers, thus forgoing the necessity for disposable packaging. By implementing these minor adjustments, you’ll foster a more sustainable academic experience and inspire your fellow students.

Shop secondhand

A highly efficient approach to minimizing your environmental impact and conserving funds is by opting for secondhand shopping.

Familiarize yourself with the second-hand stores in your area and make a list of your favorites. Explore different locations to find the best deals and selections.

Finding the perfect second-hand item may take time and multiple store visits. Be patient and remember that the hunt is part of the fun.

thrift store
Photo courtesy Markus Winkler

When shopping for pre-owned items, be sure to inspect them for any damage or wear thoroughly. Check clothing for stains, tears, or missing buttons and examine furniture for structural integrity.

Sometimes, a secondhand item may need a little TLC to fit your style. Don’t be afraid to get creative with DIY projects, such as painting furniture or upcycling clothing pieces.

Another fun way to shop secondhand is to not shop at all. Swap instead! Coordinate clothing swaps with friends or on campus to exchange pre-loved items. This not only promotes sustainable fashion but also fosters a sense of community among students.

Join green initiatives on campus

Participating in these programs not only helps reduce your ecological footprint but also encourages others to adopt eco-friendly practices.

Benefits of joining green initiatives on campus include:

Education and Awareness: Being part of a green initiative helps broaden your understanding of environmental issues and sustainable solutions. This knowledge can be shared with peers, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility on campus.

Networking and Community Building: Joining a green initiative connects you with like-minded individuals who share your passion for sustainability. These relationships may result in enduring friendships and prospective professional prospects within the environmental field.

Skill Enhancement: Involvement in on-campus eco-friendly endeavors enables you to acquire essential abilities, like project management, collaboration, and problem-solving, which can be applied to your future profession.

How to get involved in green initiatives on campus

Research Existing Programs: Investigate the environmental clubs, organizations, or sustainability offices at your college. Find out about their ongoing projects and identify those that align with your interests and passions.

Participate in Events: Join meetings, workshops, or seminars organized by these organizations to gain insight into their efforts and discover ways you can contribute.

Volunteer or Take Leadership Roles: Offer your time and skills by volunteering for various projects or events. Consider taking on leadership roles within the organization to help drive its mission and goals.

Initiate Your Project: If your campus is missing a particular eco-friendly endeavor that you feel strongly about, contemplate establishing your group or undertaking. Cooperate with faculty, staff, and peers to devise and execute novel sustainability initiatives.

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