5 Ways to be More Eco-Friendly this Semester

We have become increasingly conscious of our environmental impact and the need to change our ways, but it can be hard to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle on a student budget, while trying to balance school, work and other activities. In order to make the task seem less overwhelming, I’ve compiled a list of five easy ways you can make a change.



1. Know When to Recycle:

Recycling is the easiest way to help the environment every day by limiting the waste we   produce, conserving natural resources, saving energy and reducing the methane emissions caused by landfills. In Montreal, you can recycle paper, plastic, glass, metal and cardboard in the green recycling bins without having to sort them, which is a real timesaver.

However, there are some non-recyclables that you need to look out according to the city of Montreal. These fall under two categories. The first ones are the non-recyclables that are likely to turn recyclables into waste, like greasy pizza boxes and chip bags. This turns out to be a real problem because one item can contaminate a whole bin.  The second ones are the non-recyclables that are likely to slow down the sorting process or clog machinery, like plastic No.6 (Styrofoam and Polysterene) and materials coated with wax or lined with plastic, like a number of coffee cups, including the ones from Starbucks.

Avoiding these mistakes ensures that what you put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled. The city of Montreal also provides helpful information on their website.



2. Reuse:

Reusing is all about limiting the waste we produce as it concerns mostly products that are not consistently recycled, or that are simply not recyclable. There are many ways you can reuse, one of which is to thrift some of your clothes instead of contributing to the fast fashion industry that results in a lot of excessive water use and water pollution. According to the World Resources Institute, the production of one cotton shirt requires the same amount of water as an average person drinks in two and a half years!

It’s not about thrifting everything but finding the right balance between brand new and gently loved items. This can also be applied to other areas of your life as most thrift stores sell a wide range of products. It can also change the way you dispose of your clothes. If you think someone else might love it, how about donating it to a charity or dropping it off at the closest thrift store?



3. Change Your Routine:

It can be hard to make greener choices if it means going out of your way, but you won’t even have to think about it if it becomes a habit. You can reduce your impact on the environment by building a more eco-friendly routine and buying from brands who try to make a difference. Instead of going through dozens of shower gel and shampoo bottles every year, why not switch to packaging-free products that will not leave any waste behind? Thirty five percent of Lush’s products are sold naked, without any packaging, according to their website. This includes their solid shampoos, conditioners, soaps and skincare products, but there are also other brands out there offering alternatives to plastic bottles, like Ethique and their compostable packaging. Both Lush and Ethique also give back to environmental and animal charities.    


4. Think Long Term: Whenever you get a plastic straw at Starbucks or ask for a plastic bag at the grocery store, ask yourself where these will end up tomorrow. It’s all about making choices that will help you be greener next week, next month, next year. Instead of relying on single-use items, why not invest in sustainable ones? The difference between the two, other than the environmental impact, is that one is free and the other is not, which is enough to deter most people from making the greener choice. However, most reusable items only need to be bought once. This is the case with washable stainless steel straws, fabric produce bags and even beeswax food wraps. The point is, if you’re wondering if there is a more sustainable alternative, there usually is.


5. Talk About It:

Educating others about our impact on the environment and the many ways we can lessen it is the first step to fostering change. This can be as small as telling a friend when they’re recycling wrong or encouraging them to bring a reusable bag when you’re going shopping. The chances are that, whatever you tell them, they will end up telling someone else, therefore creating a chain reaction. It’s our responsibility to raise awareness about something as important as the damage we are doing to the planet we live on. Do not underestimate the power you have to make a change.


Edited by: Amanda Cloutier-Santos