5 Ways to Go Green As a College Student

The devastating impacts of climate change are everywhere. From rising sea levels to the loss of pristine biodiversity, it's clear that we can't afford to neglect our environment any longer. We must take a stand and be proactive. With that being said, it can be tough to know where to begin due to inequities around accessing sustainable practices. For example, sustainable foods often cost more than their unsustainable counterparts. In fact, financial hindrances discourage many people from implementing eco-friendly lifestyles in the first place. Similarly, while wealthy countries are able to construct solar panels and other expensive technologies into their urban infrastructure, the same is not easily possible for developing nations. Lastly, environmental racism plagues our societies, as the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous communities. Therefore, to overcome climate change, sustainability practices must become accessible in all aspects. Here are five equitable ways college students can make a difference and go green.

  1. 1. Implement a Plant-Based Diet

    Vegan dinner and vegetables on a table

    While going vegetarian or vegan proves to have benefits for both the human body and the environment, it is not always a realistic decision for everyone. The good news, however, is that there are several ways to incorporate sustainable practices into your diet without sacrificing meat consumption altogether. First, cut down on processed food. Processed items contain harmful chemicals and use very energy-intensive manufacturing that only increases pollution levels. Second, if you are weary of cutting out all meat, consider at least reducing consumption of beef: the most harmful meat product. The meat industry as a whole is very exploitive and increases carbon emissions and deforestation, and can cause some diseases. Since our diet plays a big role in keeping the environment healthy, know that there are several healthy and tasty alternatives to processed items, such as brown rice, oats, and fruits. Remember, environmentally-friendly products are beneficial for your own health as well, so be sure to eat those veggies!

  2. 2. Reduce Energy Consumption

    People Walking on Street

    One of the biggest contributors of global warming is energy production. A few easy ways that you can reduce your energy footprint is to turn off the lights and unplug your chargers when you don’t need them. On a similar note, conserve water by being mindful of your faucets and shower practices. Consider also looking into ways to insulate your living spaces so you don’t limit your energy consumption and avoid a hefty heating bill. And if you're a college student in a metropolitan area, walk! By walking or biking to get around, you cut down on energy consumption while reaping health benefits, too. 

  3. 3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

    glass bottles in Reusable bag

    As cliche as it sounds, “The Three R’s” really make a difference. Reuse containers and materials as much as you can, and when you are done with them, be mindful of where you dispose. Public spaces often have areas designated for recycling and trash, so be sure to follow them and separate recycling from trash in your own home. Consider taking reusable bags to your shopping trips, use reusable tupperware, and donate old clothes and products. Lastly, the most overlooked “R” is “reduce.” Reducing consumption, especially of paper and plastic, is crucial in the process of going green!

  4. 4. Join Environmental Clubs and Organizations

    Joining environmental groups is especially practical for college students, since many schools have at least one club, organization, or program dedicated to fighting climate change. While implementing direct sustainability practices like reducing meat consumption and walking are very important, change is also needed on a public awareness level. These environmental organizations give you more experience and knowledge, teach you to use your voice on issues that matter, and help mobilize communities into action. In the process, you will meet other like-minded individuals who are also dedicated to creating a cleaner environment. From this sense of camaraderie, you will feel a lot more motivated, supported, and encouraged to go-green. After reading this article, consider looking into some environmental clubs or projects around you!

     

  5. 5. Pressure Those in Power

    people marching with sign that says "climate justice"

    While the average student cannot sign bills into law, we do have the power to influence those who can. From your school administration, to state and federal government, various levels of leadership have a say in large-scale environmental policies. One way to pressure lawmakers is by protesting. I still remember attending Boston’s 2019 Environmental Protest, a day filled with so much passion, hope, and righteous anger. It was a day I will never forget, which just proves the impact of protest. Protesting has historically proven to be a highly effective way to organize large numbers of people and push concrete policy change. Other ways to pressure politicians include social media mobilization, creating meaningful art, music, or speeches, and, of course, reaching out to your state representatives. You can find more information on contacting members of Congress here.

Remember, being proactive, whether it be through protesting or conserving water, will help make a difference! The environment needs our help and we must be the generation to change the course of climate change before its effects are irreversible. I hope you incorporate elements from this list as you begin your journey of going green. Good luck!

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