Common Mistakes and Helpful Tips on How to be More Green

Spring is finally blooming on AU’s campus just in time for Earth Day. Seeing campus in its full beauty inspires me, and hopefully, everyone else on campus, to be a little more eco-friendly than usual. As we all know, American University prides itself in being a green campus and does a great job at providing different types of waste bins and compostable substitutions throughout campus. While all these things help to make us an eco-friendly campus, they can only be beneficial if students and faculty members are using these green solutions correctly.

To help us amateur green thumbs learn how to improve our environmental habits I asked one of the founding members of Tree Huggers of American University club, Sophie Becker Klein, to help us out.

Keep reading to find out what common eco-mistakes you could be making and some easy tips to help you become greener.

Common Mistakes

1. Not using the waste bins correctly

AU does a great job of supplying recycling, trash, and compost bins across campus, but they’re only beneficial if people know how to use them. Sophie says that she sees people across campus putting things in the wrong waste bin all the time!

“The idea is to put as little into the trash bin as possible because the material will take much longer to break down”

AU has a lot of compostable substitutes like certain cups, straws, lids, and containers, so always double check the label to see if it's compostable. Food and napkins can also be compostable.

If it’s not a compostable substitute all plastic cups, lids, containers, paper, and cardboard can be recycled if it’s clean.

That leads us to common mistake number 2.

2. Not cleaning out containers before recycling them

This mistake is almost as bad as not recycling at all. If you don’t your recycling could attract rats, make it more expensive to recycle, or contaminate the rest of the bin. But don’t be daunted by this extra step! You don’t have to scrub for hours, but just make sure there isn’t a large amount of extra product and food. Use your best judgment and just be mindful of this step.

For more help check out the New York Times article 6 Things You're Recycling Wrong 

Helpful Tips

1. Use reusable cups

Take advantage of the water bottle fountains across campus and find yourself a water bottle! This helps you reduce your plastic use by avoiding plastic water bottles. Don’t feel like you have to get an expensive hydro-flask, any water bottle will do! Sometime AU even hands out free bottles at campus events.

Also, get yourself a reusable travel mug. Not only will this make you more likely to make coffee or tea in your dorm instead of spending money elsewhere, if you are really craving that perfect Starbucks latte, but you can also use reusable containers there too! In fact, you’ll get a 5% discount on drinks at Starbucks when you use your own container.

2. Use the stairs instead of the elevator

Sophie says this is one of the easiest ways to help conserve energy. Especial if you’re only going up one or two flights of steps it saves time, and energy (literally) by just taking the stairs. Also, this helps you do good for your heart and environment at the same time.

3. Take notes electronically

Not only is taking notes on your laptop arguable fast than taking notes on paper, but it's also better for the environment because it reduces your paper usage. If physically writing things down helps you learn, try using an iPad so you can write things down without wasting paper.

4. Reusable bags

Instead of mindlessly grabbing another plastic bag every time you make a Giant run, bring your own grocery bag and reduce your plastic use. A lot of grocery store themselves sell them right at the counter and they’re usually under $5, so even on a tight college budget, there is no excuse not to get one.

5. Thrift and borrow clothes

As much as you’re loving the latest trends on Forever 21, fast fashion can be really bad for the environment. Instead, give clothes a second by shopping at local thrift stores, plus vintage style is totally in right now. A Lot of thrift store in the area like Buffalo Exchange and Remix Recycling Co. focus their stores on current fashion trends. Also, ask your friends to borrow clothes especially if it’s for an event that you’re only going to wear the fit one time. Another fun, environmental activity to do is to host a clothing swap. This way you can get new clothes without buying into fast fashion.

So the next time you see someone recycling their compostable forks in MGC or putting their napkins in the trash instead of the compost, make sure you educate the people around you. Helping the environment is a team effort, and it’s only productive if everyone is educated on how they can help.

For more environmental updates on campus check out Sophie's Instagram @plasticlesssoph