Small Ways to Leave this Planet a Better Place Than When You Arrived

As a college student, it can be easy for me to imagine myself in a tiny bubble that does not exist in the real world. The real world is increasing in temperature, oceans are rising, animal species are going extinct, and deforestation is accelerating. These are big, scary words, which are often easier to hide from rather than do anything about. Maybe if we pretend they are not happening or cover our ears, it will not actually be real. No matter how we choose to ignore it, these changes to our planet are still happening, and we as individuals feel that we do not have the power to make an impact ourselves, so we do nothing. I am here to say that is not the case, we all have the power to make small changes that, together, bring large scale changes and show government officials we are serious about preserving the integrity of our home. 

Climate Change protest

Without further ado, here are 15 small ways to leave this planet a better place than when you arrived!

  1. Stop ignoring climate change. Take the scientists seriously and take the activists seriously. No real change will happen if people just continue to ignore what is happening to our one and only planet, and we need to take charge and accountability.

  2. Use less water. When brushing your teeth, don’t let the water run unnecessarily and take shorter showers. This will also save you money on your water bill. 

  3. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Better yet, use natural light when possible. Natural light is so calming, especially when it is nice out. 

  4. Recycle. When you can, recycle all items that apply. Recycling is so easy to do and makes an impact on a global scale to repurpose items. 

  5. For the love of God, do not litter. Do not litter. Just do not do it.

  6. If you see trash, pick it up and throw it out (assuming it is safe to do so). Make sure you are wearing gloves and are taking precautions to stay safe. 

  7. Use reusable items. I am guilty of using plastic cutlery way too often, since it can be easier to just throw out your fork at the end of the meal rather than wash it in a dorm sink. The extra time you take to wash reusable items and use them again is worth it in the end. An easy change is to switch to reusable water bottles and cut out your use of disposable plastic. If you must purchase or use a bottle of water, reuse that one for a few days. Another easy change is to bring reusable bags to the store. If you forget your bag, use a plastic or paper one and reuse the disposable bag. If I get a plastic bag, I use it as a trash can liner, or put wet shoes on it. 

  8. Carpool when you can. Cars add to air pollution and emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, so reducing the number of cars on the road is essential. 

  9. If you need to drive on your own, drive smart. Braking too hard consumes more fuel. Ensure that your tires are appropriately filled with air, since this will impact fuel efficiency. Keeping your car serviced and maintained will also increase fuel efficiency, which in turn, saves you money. 

  10. Go digital for receipts, letters, and notices. If you cannot go digitally, use double sided printing when possible. This will cut your paper use and waste in half.  

  11. Wash clothes less frequently and wait to wash until you have a good amount of clothes. This will save water and reduce the wear and tear to your clothes. 

  12. Reduce food waste and waste in general. Avoid buying things that you don’t really need, which will reduce waste and save you money. 

  13. Use reusable pads or menstrual cups. I personally use a menstrual cup, and it was my best decision of 2017. You save money, reduce waste and never need to worry about having a spare tampon or pad in your bag when you use the bathroom and realize that it looks like a crime scene.

  14. Refuse straws at restaurants, unless you need one. Do not shame others for using disposable straws, there are plenty of good reasons why someone would need to use a disposable straw and it is never your business to shame others. 

  15. Do not engage in callout culture. This stands for all parts of life. Callout culture hurts everyone. People are all at different places in their journeys and we will never know what is going on in someone’s life, so it is never appropriate to “cancel” someone based on their sustainability habits. We can only try to be the best versions of ourselves and gently encourage others to do the same. 

Children Recycling

In the end, this is about being kind to our planet and being kinder to others is a logical pre-step. We must work together to make changes that have us leaving this planet in better shape than when we first arrived, or else there will be nothing for future generations to even try to improve. Begin with small steps, all of us, and we can do it.