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How to Protect the Environment as a College Student

Each year, the arrival of Earth Day on April 22nd results in a plethora of social media posts with a variety of photographs from locations around the globe. Influencers post pictures from their favorite vacation spots, often using lighthearted captions about saving the turtles or protecting Mother Earth. 

While these posts are usually made with good intentions and meant to increase people’s appreciation for our planet, reposting these sentiments or making collages of nature photographs won’t help us take action on dealing with the environmental crisis that we face. It's important for us to realize that these social media posts serve as a great motivation and reminder of our planet’s beauty, but it can’t stop there. 

Climate change is a very real phenomenon that will greatly impact our future. While changes in government legislation are slowly being made for our country to begin prioritizing sustainable living again, we all have a part in keeping our planet healthy. So how can we, as college students, make a difference? Here are six ways for college students to prioritize saving the environment:

Take Notes Electronically

This option may not be feasible for everyone, but if possible, taking notes on a laptop or a tablet allows for less wasted paper and resources. As the world continues its transition in becoming primarily digital, a greater number of students have access to online resources and a means of taking notes without using notebooks or flashcards.

Wash Clothes on the Cold or Warm Setting

Most college students have to do their laundry at least once a week, and washers use lots of energy to heat up the water used. At its hottest setting, the washing machines use more energy to heat the water at a higher intensity, and for a longer period of time, than necessary. Switching to the cold or warm setting can help save energy.

Try to Limit Meat Consumption and Food Waste

A large part of the college experience involves time spent eating dining hall food with a meal plan. While this may not always provide students with the healthiest meal options, it is important to seek out plant-based foods when available. Since meat production has a large carbon footprint, consciously cutting out meat for one day or a few meals per week can help reduce it. Additionally, making sure to get only as much food as you will be able to eat rather than filling up the tray can result in significantly less food waste.

Switch to Reusable Bags

Many college students may have to make trips to the grocery store to stock up their fridge for the week. When running errands of any kind, having a reusable bag can limit waste from paper and plastic bags. As more large retail chains are straying away from the use of plastic bags, reusable bags are always a great option.

Walk, Bike, or Take Public Transport

This is a pretty simple suggestion to implement, as college campuses are usually very walkable, and many students even use skateboards or bikes to get around. Using these methods of transport rather than a car allows for fewer emissions from vehicles on the road. It can also be helpful to use public transport when taking a quick trip home on weekends or holidays.

Buy From Sustainable Brands

Shopping is a fun way to bond with friends and destress in college, but it can be hard to find sustainable brands that are also affordable. Here are a few clothing brands that are made ethically with eco-friendly materials: Alternative Apparel, Do Good Swimwear, Tentree, GLDN, and Known Supply. These brands use recycled materials and produce clothing with low-impact dyes, so they are great options for your next online shopping spree!

At one college student at a time, taking these simple steps can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle and a healthier planet. We all have a lasting impact on our planet, and the actions we choose to take today can impact our future living conditions. We should celebrate the life that our planet is able to sustain every day and continue to work toward a more sustainable future. Instead of solely scrolling through social media posts showcasing our Earth, it is important to implement the practices described above consistently to create a real difference. Remember, our planet doesn’t need us, but we need it to survive, and we must do everything in our power to protect all aspects of it.

Prakriti Setlur

Northeastern '24

I'm a first year student (Class of 2024) majoring in cell and molecular biology and minoring in biomedical engineering. I enjoy Indian classical dancing and singing, playing tennis, and playing the oboe. In my free time, I love baking, riding my bike, and journaling/writing!
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