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5 Ways to be Environmentally Sustainable as a College Student

I consider myself to be pretty politically engaged and active in fighting for what I believe in. There are many issues I feel strongly about, one of them being the environment. But sitting in class one day, in the midst of our unit on the environment, I realized I don’t actually know that much about it. Of course, I knew about climate change, and believe in climate change, but I didn’t realize how severe it really is and just how many people have to deal with the consequences of it. I knew I needed to be better. To do better. I knew it was time to take action, just as I had done for other issues I am passionate about. But it can be overwhelming. How can one person possibly make a difference? How can someone totally change their lifestyle to make it sustainable? Then I realized, small steps can make a difference too. Of course, large steps like switching to solar energy and keeping greenhouse gases in the ground need to be taken as well. But you and I, in our daily lives, can also help reverse the effects of climate change and essentially change the world. 

To begin living a more environmentally sustainable life, you have to start small. It’s impossible to change your whole lifestyle overnight but it’s important to move in the right direction. I decided to ask my friends who are passionate about this issue what steps I can take to live more sustainably. Here’s what they had to say:


1. Bring your own mug.

Whether you need a cup of coffee to get you through that 8:00 am class or you just like some tea to warm you up on those chilly winter days, Hadley suggests bringing your own mug or tumbler cup with you to the dining hall or coffee shop. It’s easy, it’s environmentally friendly, and you can find some really cute ones online. 


2. Consider using shampoo bars instead of bottles.

Piper has made the switch to shampoo bars, and she’s loving it. Not only do they last longer than a regular bottle, but they have no packaging and thus no waste. You use the bar until it is gone. This is a great way to minimize the plastic you are adding to the already existing and overflowing piles. 

3. Use reusable bags.

Over the summer I began to cook and play around with recipes. I also like to bring snacks with me when I park myself in Ascension for the afternoon. Instead of using plastic bags at the grocery store, I bring my own reusable ones. Instead of putting my snacks in plastic zip-lock bags, I ordered some reusable, resealable sandwich bags on Amazon. Once again, this is a super easy way to limit your plastic use. Reusable bags serve the same purpose as plastic ones, but they don’t kill the environment. 


4. Look at the ingredients. 

Lots of makeup and bathroom products contain chemicals that are not only harmful to your skin but also, as Megan explained, are harmful to the environment. As a product gets rinsed down the drain, it may damage the soil, and this can negatively affect populations living near or on this agricultural land. Google harmful chemicals that are often used in products, then try to avoid them. 


5. Avoid purchasing from fast fashion brands.

It’s easy to shop from stores like Forever21, as you can get a lot of bang for your buck. You can probably get three tops from Forever21 for the price of one sweater at Urban Outfitters. But that doesn’t mean that you should. As someone who loves fashion and loves to shop, this is something I need to work on and be much more conscious of. As Megan worded beautifully, “the satisfaction you get from that cute yet cheap shirt isn’t worth the environmental damage it is causing.” In order to make a profit, fast fashion brands must produce a lot of clothing fast. They don’t care about the environmental damage this entails.

All of these suggestions are wonderful, and I am certainly going to work hard toward achieving them. However, they can also seem overwhelming. To help combat this, Megan had a few suggestions. First, set rules for yourself. Maybe you say that you won’t get coffee at the dining hall if you didn’t bring your own mug. This will incentivize you to keep bringing it and eventually it will become a habit. Additionally, she suggests having conversations with your friends about how to be more sustainable. This way you can trade ideas and hold each other accountable. Lastly, she mentions that being sustainable looks different for everyone and is based on what they have access to, so don’t judge. Simply encourage yourself and others to be as sustainable as possible. 

I’m excited to continue to learn ways in which I can live a more environmentally sustainable life. These tips have certainly inspired and informed me about changes I can make. I hope they did the same for you. 

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Gina Golden

Kenyon '22

Gina is a senior International Studies major at Kenyon College who loves traveling, talking politics and playing with her dog.
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