By this point, everyone knows that climate change is a very real thing, and the catastrophic effects it will have on our planet are already happening. The recent wildfires in California, to the increase in severe weather events, are just a short preview of the disasters to come. The U.N. recently released a report that says we have about twelve years to get our act together. The Trump administration also published a report (on Black Friday, hoping that in their post-turkey comas no one would notice it), that details the impacts of climate change on each region of the U.S. (check out this article to see how your state will be effected).
Thinking about all of this can be pretty overwhelming. But there are still things that you can do to reduce your impact on the environment, even as a college student. Here are some easy things that you can do right now to reduce the amount of waste you produce, and ultimately help lessen the impacts of global warming. An added bonus is most of these help your wallet too, which is definitely something all college students can appreciate.
1) Invest in a good reusable water bottle
It may seem obvious, but many people still use single use plastics every day without thinking about it. In the U.S. alone, there are around 1,500 plastic bottles thrown away every second, and more than 38 billion water bottles enter landfills every year. Buying a reusable water bottle can save up to 240 plastic bottles every year. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a huge pack of bottled water every week.
2) Plug all of your electronics into power strips
Not only does this help keep your room organized and prevent you from tripping on your phone charger in the middle of the night, it also makes it easier to unplug everything at once. It might not seem like a big deal, but when you leave all of your electronics plugged all day, even when they’re off, they still use electricity, called ‘vampire power’. This phantom power use can seriously add up over time, and not only does it use more electricity, but it can make your electrical bill a lot higher, too.
3) Be mindful about purchasing and disposing of things in your dorm room
Everyone knows how fun back-to-school Target runs are. The year is brimming with potential, and buying a neon “But first, coffee” sign and that adorable fake succulent seems to be the way to complete your dorm decorations and help you live your best life this school year. But what happens when, at the end of the school year, your sign is broken and you’ve somehow managed to kill your fake succulent? It goes right to the landfill. Although Denison tries to divert some of this waste by putting out donation tables at the end of the year, they are usually fairly unorganized and ineffective. As a result, a lot of larger furniture items (like couches and mini fridges) still end up in the dumpster. Fixing this problem starts at the beginning of the semester. Next time, ask yourself if you really need that fluffy white arm chair (your wallet will thank you, too.)
4) Use reusable bags when you go grocery shopping
This is also a pretty obvious one, but remembering to grab those reusable bags every week can seriously make a big difference in the long run. According to the garbage disposal company Waste Management, the U.S. alone uses 14 billion plastic bags every year, and only 1 percent of them are returned for recycling. These bags eventually make their way into the ocean, and kill 100,000 marine animals (at least) every year. Not only does bringing reusable bags stop this plastic from going into the environment, but sometimes you can get a discount from doing it, too: Target gives you a 5-cent discount if you have your own bag.
5) Bring your own coffee cup
Although paper coffee cups are now far more common than their Styrofoam counterparts, they are still very hard to recycle, because they often contain 5% polyurethane plastic. It’s estimated that there are over 2 trillion paper cups in landfills (a large chunk of which probably comes from us coffee addicted college students). Remembering to bring your own cup can help lower the CO2 levels emitted from landfills, and it can add some fun personalization to your morning coffee. Not to mention you get a discount at most stores for bring your own cup (like the ten-cent discount at Starbucks!)
6) Consider cutting back on meat once a week
You don’t have to convert to vegetarianism, or even devote an entire day to eating meatless every week (see my other article on the controversy that Meatless Monday caused on our campus). But swapping out your burger for a veggie burger for just one meal is better than nothing. Meat production not only uses up huge quantities of water, grain, and land, but it also heavily contributes to global warming (yes, cow farts really do produce a lot of methane). Though it may seem small, if everyone tried to cut back on their meat intake, it would make a big difference. Plus, if you chose tofu over beef often enough, you might even notice your grocery bill going down.
7) Check out this Twitter Thread
Plastic became popular in the 60’s, and has crept into our lives in innumerable ways every since. This thread has lots of great options, all available on Amazon, to replace plastic you might not even think about using, like the produce bags at the grocery store, or toothbrushes. The best part is, they’re all under $20. Saving the planet and saving money: what’s not to love?