Living a sustainable life is one of those things we all strive for but often forget in the midst of school and work. Leaving an ecological footprint of zero is difficult in this day and age; however, there are simple steps you can take to significantly reduce your environmental impact.
1. Think Twice Before Buying
From extracting raw materials, to manufacturing, to packaging, to distribution, every product we buy has an environmental footprint. Be mindful of the pollution and waste that is generated throughout the process of creating products. Before buying something, ask yourself if you really need it. If so, consider renting, buying used, or borrowing. This is also a great way to save money while saving the planet!
2. Avoid Plastic
Plastic doesn’t undergo the same biodegradation process as organic materials. The average time it takes to completely degrade a plastic bottle is 450 years. Thus, a lot of used plastics end up in landfills and oceans, which has devastating effects on marine life and ecosystems. Reduce your plastic consumption by avoiding bottled water! Invest in a reusable water bottle and bring it everywhere! You can also get a reusable coffee mug to bring when buying coffee or other hot beverages – another great way to avoid using disposable cups. Also, bring reusable bags when shopping and avoid products with plastic packaging whenever possible. You can achieve the latter by shopping local at the Kingston Public Market and by reducing online shopping.
3. Be Water Wise
The planet’s growing population is generating an increasing strain on our water supply. You can easily conserve water by fixing leaky toilets and choosing low-flow and low-water appliances. Bring reusable water bottles to dining halls to reduce the amount of cups that need to be washed. Take shorter showers and schedule them for after workouts or for before bed, to avoid taking multiple showers a day. You could also collect and save the running water used while waiting for your shower to get hot to water your plants with later. Running the dishwasher when full typically uses less water and energy than washing dishes by hand. Finally, monitor your utilities bill to catch any spikes in the water usage in your household! This will allow you to adjust your water usage and find new ways to conserve water.
4. Be Sensible with Stationary
Paper use is one of the main areas university students can save money on while also helping the environment. These tips will help you reduce your paper consumption. Instead of recycling scrap paper and misprints, use the blank side for drafting or note taking. Avoid grabbing a handful of napkins from dining halls and take only the amount you will actually use. For those who take notes with paper and pen, refillable binders are more eco-friendly than recycling old notebooks. Buy used books that won’t contribute to new printing and hollow your wallet. Finally, think twice before printing! Format your documents wisely and double check before printing to avoid misprints.
5. Walk, Bike or Bus
Only drive when absolutely necessary! Driving can often be the most convenient mode of transportation, but contributes to the pressing issue of air pollution. The Queen’s campus is completely pedestrian- and biker-friendly! Additionally, you can get anywhere in Kingston with the Kingston transit if you utilize and master the bus schedules. Think twice before bringing your car, as it will spend a considerable amount of time in the student parking lot accumulating parking fees and monthly insurance premiums.