I started my greener lifestyle when I stumbled upon the zero-waste movement. By reducing my waste and being more conscious of what I’m buying, I’m not only helping the environment but saving money and improving my health.
Becoming more eco-sensitive doesn’t happen overnight. I have to admit, it’s hard to integrate greener habits into everyday life, especially in the world we live in. Being green isn’t always convenient in our society. But in the long run, it’s the best option for you, the environment and for the future.
Here are eight ways we can all become greener students:
1.Reduce, reuse, recycle.
It’s a phrase we all know and follow, but a large portion of us (sometimes myself included) only recycle. The phrase is organized in this fashion for a reason: recycling is, in fact, not the first thing you should do – it’s the last. Reducing your consumption of goods is the most important part of the three Rs. Then it’s reuse. Reuse as many things as you possibly can. Finally, your last resort is to recycle.
2. Cut the plastic.
We live in a world of plastic. Almost everything we buy is made of the material. It’s cheap, it’s convenient but it’s also extremely harmful to the environment. An estimated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic is in landfills, 91 percent of which isn’t recycled properly, according to an article by National Geographic. Plastic takes about 500 years to degrade and because landfills aren’t the solution to our growing garbage issue, waste is leaking into our oceans and other ecosystems – killing thousands of organisms. It is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish.
Be conscious of the type and amount of plastic you’re using, and what is and isn’t recyclable. I have to admit, in writing this article I discovered that shampoo bottles are able to be recycled, just like plastic bottles. Again, recycling is the last step in the three Rs. Reducing plastic intake is the most important part of cutting plastic out of your life.
3. Give food a second chance.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 21 percent of waste that ends up in our landfills is food. In light of this, a number of universities around the country have adopted a composting service, and UW-Stevens Point is among them. Compost bins are located in academic buildings and residential buildings across our campus. The compost collected through these bins is used to fertilize flowerbeds on campus, as well as the campus garden. For those like me who live off campus, invest in a stainless steel compost bin. Don’t worry about the smell of rotting food because the bin includes a charcoal filter that still allows aeration, but eliminates the smell. Once the bin is full, simply empty it into one of the on-campus bins!
Electricity emits 37 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions annually and is one of the leading causes of climate change, according to this article in The New York Times. A quarter of one’s electricity comes from electronics on standby mode. Whether it’s your toaster, Keurig or phone charger, it’s sucking up electricity. Taking a few seconds to unplug electronics that are not in use will save money and shrink your carbon footprint. Just don’t unplug items like your fridge – that wouldn’t be the best idea!
5. Pop some tags.
Thrifting is my new obsession. It’s so fun to go into a thrift store and see what awesome deals you can snag! Plus, you can find some pretty unique items. I now buy all my clothes at thrift stores. What’s the point of spending $20 or more on a top that I might only wear once, just because it’s name-brand? I’ve found amazing deals on American Eagle, Loft and Eddie Bauer – to name a few names – all for less than $10 at thrift stores. Go visit your local thrifting location and start popping tags! Not only are you saving money, but you’re reusing items that could have ended up in a landfill.
6. Get crafty.
You can make almost any hygiene or household product you buy in the store at home. Sure it’s more time consuming, but you’ll be saving money, reducing your waste and plastic intake, and controlling what’s going into your cleaning and personal care products. No need to worry about nasty chemicals! Do a quick Google search to find countless recipes for homemade toothpaste, soap, shampoo and household cleaners.
7. Invest in eco-friendly goods.
Being more aware of what you’re purchasing will not only save money, but lead to less waste in the oceans and landfills. Become a conscious consumer by learning about what’s in products, such as cleaning and personal hygiene products. Look for products that have less ingredients and less chemicals. The cleaner the better. That goes for packaging, too. Scope out items that have minimal and recyclable packaging. Cutting back on one-time use products, like paper towels, plastic silverware and plastic cups is also key to being a green consumer. Invest in more durable items made of stainless steel, silicone or recycled materials. Easy replacements include a bamboo toothbrush/hairbrush, a safety razor, bar soap, rechargeable batteries, reusable cups and silverware – just to name a few.
Reduce. It’s the first step in the three Rs. This not only means reducing the goods you consume, but also what is in your life currently. I have to admit, cutting down on shopping was tough for me, but it has saved me a whole lot of cash. I no longer shop for what’s trendy or for things I want. I simply shop for what I need and treat myself occasionally. This philosophy also goes for things I already own. Clothes I hadn’t worn in months were donated, along with other things I barely used. Not only are these items getting a second life by being donated, but they are staying out of a landfill. Adopting a minimalist lifestyle, where I own things that bring me happiness, has made my life simpler, cleaner and happier. I believe it can do the same for you, too!
Those are just a few habits I have adopted in my everyday life. There are so many benefits to going green, for you, others and the environment!
For more information about our campus’ efforts in sustainability, check out the Office of Sustainability. There, you will find a number of resources about being sustainable.
Adopting a greener lifestyle is more fun when you do it with friends! Check out green student organizations on the Stevens Point Involvement Network at spin.uwsp.edu – just log in with your university credentials to search for student orgs on campus.