The College Student’s Guide to Getting Greener in a Single Day
Tackling a global crisis like climate change is such a massive undertaking that you may wind up with analysis paralysis, unable to figure out where to begin. A good first step is to attend an institution that's working to improve its sustainability efforts or that has top marks on a list like our Top 50 Green Colleges. But don't expect others to do all the work! Here are some relatively easy day-to-day changes that can help you contribute to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle in college.
- Be bright. Don't turn on extra lights if the sun itself will do.
- Take a shorter shower. On some days, you just need to stand under the hot water to wake up — but make the conscious decision to keep your shower to only a few minutes when you can.
- Bye-bye to buy-buy. If possible, avoid fast fashion, which is hard on both your wallet and the environment. A closet full of items you love and wear all the time makes getting dressed a breeze and helps to cut down on high levels of textile waste. If you find yourself in the mood to shop, adventure into secondhand stores for some new-to-you clothes or furnishings. Bring along things you're ready to part with and donate them while you're at it.
Traveling to School
- Walk or bike to class when possible. You'll reduce your carbon footprint and you won't have to worry about finding parking or getting a ticket.
- For longer commutes, hop on the local or campus bus or carpool with friends.
- Take an elective in environmental science or conservation to learn more about climate change, going green and how we impact the environment.
- Make sure you're recycling material correctly. It's simple enough to dispose of old papers, but your lab instructor can tell you how to dispose of hazardous waste from your experiment, and there are guidelines for trashing outdated electronics.
- Eat local and in season. Cutting down on food transport is good for the environment and ensures that the food you eat is closest to peak ripeness. If your college town has a farmer's market, stop by and ask vendors more about their harvest cycles or their sustainable farming efforts. Your dining hall may already be practicing more sustainable food sourcing.
- Try "Meatless Monday." One vegetarian meal a week reduces greenhouse-gas emissions and fossil-fuel dependence.
- Reduce food waste. Don't load your plate with food you won't eat, and if you wind up with leftovers, don't just let them sit in the mini fridge. Reuse when possible. Don't buy plastic water bottles; refill the same one each day.
In Your Free Time
- Join a green club! Whether you're looking to join a gardening club or a climate change advocacy group, green clubs will introduce you to other like-minded individuals who can give you tips while supporting your mission to be more environmentally aware.
- Enjoy the outdoors. It helps to reconnect with the splendor that you're trying to preserve. So power down, take hikes and explore local parks and nature preserves.
- Feeling crafty? Try repurposing items into dorm decorations.
At the End of the Day
- Turn off most of — if not all — of your electronics. You'd be surprised how much energy this saves.
- Open a window or add an extra blanket before you reach for the fan or space heater.
These are just a few ideas to kick off your green lifestyle. Each college will have unique resources for you to learn more about how they are working to combat the negative effects of climate change and ways for you to get involved. In the end, steps toward living a more sustainable life begin with you making the conscious decision to act and make a change.