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Lucky for us students, sustainability isn’t just something we have the option of majoring or minoring in while we’re away at college. Instead, it’s something we can practice and promote every day of our lives! It’s important to take the time to truly educate ourselves on what it means to live sustainably and how to take better care of our planet.

A college campus is the perfect place to begin your sustainability journey — all while advocating for your friends and peers to do the same. After all, we only get one shot with this whole inhabiting-planet-Earth thing, so we’ve really got to make it count and do our best to reverse the clock when it comes to climate change. Here are some ideas on how we can work together to advocate for sustainable practices on campus today.

Get Informed About Going Green

So, what is sustainability? And what does it even look like to live sustainably as a college student? I’m no sustainability major or minor myself, but several of my close friends are and were kind enough to sum up their studies for me. The biggest takeaways for me were that being sustainable means actively seeking to protect, preserve, and use the planet’s natural resources in the smartest ways possible — utilizing science, social science, and the humanities to our advantage. There are various ways to do this, from sustainable eating and drinking, sustainable fashion, sustainable means of transportation, sustainable shipping, and so much more.  

“The most important thing when adopting more sustainable practices is finding habits that are practical and attainable for you.”

“Overall, I think the most important thing when adopting more sustainable practices is finding habits that are practical and attainable for you! I tried going completely vegetarian my freshman year and it ended up being a diet that I couldn’t healthily maintain, so I found other ways to go green,” Jackie, 21, a junior at the University of Michigan, tells Her Campus. “Some things I’ve been doing since then to try to be more sustainable are buying and eating less meat, switching to non-dairy milk alternatives (oat is my favorite!), walking whenever possible instead of driving or Ubering, and supporting environmental movements like climate strikes on campus or petitions to divest in fossil fuels.” 

Like Jackie, we should all aim to create and achieve several small sustainability goals. Not only is it rewarding to chip away at them and accomplish something for the greater good of our planet, but learning how to go green can also be something that aligns with our personal and professional interests as we move through college. 

Have conversations with friends, professors, and peers about sustainability

As important as it is to work towards our own sustainability goals, it’s equally important to have larger, collective conversations about sustainability with professors, friends, and peers. Discussing what we’re doing at both the individual and group level is what trains us to be better sustainability activists and advocates on our college campuses. It’s also what allows us to actually begin making progress in the battle against climate change. If we are all on the same page sustainability-wise, we can work together to do things like host sustainability fairs, start community gardens and composting programs, and create long-term campus sustainability and environmental goals

Conversations also lead to action. Maggie, 21, a junior environmental sciences major at the University of Michigan, has personally turned her words and ideas into action. “For years, University of Michigan students took action to pressure the university to divest from fossil fuels. Some of the actions included strikes, protests, and campaigns that exposed the disturbing statistics around this issue,” Maggie tells Her Campus. “Although I have been involved in some of these efforts that ultimately led to the divestment last year, it would not have been possible without the initiative and conversations held by so many students that came before me.” 

Seek out sustainability programs and initiatives on your campus

Student climate and sustainability activism is likely already happening at your school — it’s just a matter of finding the right organization and initiative for you. Herbicide Free LMU, a registered student organization at Loyola Marymount University, is dedicated to stopping the use of harmful herbicides on-campus. The president of the club, Anjali, explains how important it is to be environmentally considerate on a college campus. “It can be really easy in today’s world to rely on short term or single use products. I’ve found that it is not only more environmentally friendly, but also economically productive for me to invest in long lasting products, such as eco-friendly water bottles,” Anjali tells Her Campus. 

Anjali also shares that although investing in eco-friendly products like reusable straws may feel like an economic burden, they have a positive impact in the long run. By reshaping our mentality on reusable items, we can better account for the carbon footprint we’re leaving behind by making each purchase meaningful. 

I’m sure many other organizations would say the same, but social media really is one of the best ways to find information about your campus’ sustainability programs and initiatives. “I’d strongly encourage students hoping to engage further in sustainability to keep up to date with the happenings of environmental organizations at their school and to even reach out and message them directly on social media,” Anjali says. “At the end of the day, we are all students hoping to make change and are always happy to have a dialogue with anyone in our DMs.”

Learn to live and love a more sustainable college lifestyle

To some, sustainability is synonymous with shortcomings. Believe me, your girl misses a good plastic straw in her fountain drinks every now and then — but I also have come to the conclusion that it’s much cooler to be slowly but surely saving the planet as opposed to complaining about a paper straw that “just isn’t cutting it.” Learning to love your new sustainable lifestyle may feel challenging at times, but luckily, we have so many influencers and peers to look towards for inspiration. 

“The key is to remember you don’t have to be perfect with it. Small changes are the best way to contribute toward being less wasteful and more mindful of what you consume.”

Amanda, 21, a senior at Loyola Marymount University, shares how practicing sustainability and integrating it into everyday life is a lot easier than we might think. “The key is to remember you don’t have to be perfect with it. Small changes are the best way to contribute toward being less wasteful and more mindful of what you consume,” Amanda tells Her Campus. Making small, sustainable choices can be as simple as bringing reusable utensils in your bag, like Amanda does. 

Following sustainability activists and advocates on social media is also a great way to learn how to become more sustainable. “I love to follow sustainability advocates like @greengirlleah and @zero.waste.collective on social media, who are always sharing new creative ways to be more sustainable and also serve as a source of inspiration,” Amanda shares. 

Sustainability truly is the way of the future; the climate crisis has only worsened over the past few years, making it even more important that we do everything in our power — no matter how large or small our contributions may feel — to save our planet. Urge yourself and your peers to learn more about what you can do to advocate for sustainable practices on your campus. Together, we’re on our way to sustainably saving our world! 

Rylie Walsh is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her degree in Communication Studies and English! She was President of Her Campus LMU for the 2021-22 school year and is also a Her Campus National Writer. When she's not reading, writing, or working, you can find her hanging out with friends, SoulCycling, or enjoying her all time favorite dessert: a Pressed freeze.