Sustainability: The University Edition

“Living sustainably” and “going green” have become hot topics as climate change issues become more prevalent. These phrases are umbrella terms for adopting a lifestyle that is eco-friendlier and more environmentally conscious. 

I have heard time and time again people fear sustainability because it might take a hefty toll on their wallets but fear not, there are many small lifestyle changes that can help you do your part in saving this dying space rock we call home.

  1. 1. Take electronic notes

    I feel like this is such a simple thing to do and a small sacrifice for the large impact it has. The world is electronic and your notes should be too. 

    A single tree makes anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper, which in retrospect doesn’t seem terrible but in a world where over 100,000 acres of trees are cut down daily and our forests are burning, we can’t afford to waste even a bit. Taking electronic notes is something so small that saves a ton of trees. 

    I know what you’re thinking: “I can't type my notes, I won't remember anything.” I used to be one if those people too but then I invested in a smart pen, so now I can “write” my notes on my tablet without using any actual paper. 

  2. 2. Ditch single use plastics

    Use metal straws not because you’re a VSCO girl but because you want to save the planet. Plastic straws, bags, water bottles, utensils, coffee cups and other single use plastics make up about 40 per cent of annually produced plastic. According to the National Geographic, we use this plastic once then get rid of it. 

    Many assume the plastic makes it to landfills but according to the Earth Day Network, 32 per cent of annually produced plastics end up in the ocean. That is the equivalent of dumping a full garbage truck into the ocean every minute.

    The production of plastic also requires an abhorrent amount of natural resources. The Centre for Biologically Diversity says producing 9 -14 plastic bags requires the same amount of oil needed to run a car for 1 km. 

    The styrofoam cup you used for your coffee this morning will still be here 500 years from now because it doesn’t break down easily.

    Forbes wrote 1 million water bottles are used per minute globally and 50 billion water bottles are used annually in the United States alone. These bottles are not entirely recyclable and buying a reusable water bottle can replace more than 150 water bottles per year.

    Doing simple things like using metal straws, utensils, reusable cloth bags and bottles can make a very large impact on the amount of single use plastics you use annually. 

  3. 3. Decrease your meat consumption

    Before you get scared about getting lectured by an angry vegan and click off the page, just hear me out. Cutting out meat, even if it’s only one or two meals per week, can push a positive change in our environment.

    The UN reports cattle-rearing produces a large amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The livestock industry creates more carbon dioxide and methane (CO2 and CH4) emissions than al the world’s transportation including cars, trucks and airplanes. 

    The manufacturing or feed of cattle makes up 45 per cent of emissions, while fertilizer and manure makes up 10 per cent. 

    The beef industry, by far is the leading cause of deforestation, is cause for about 70 per ent of deforestation.

    A simple way to decrease your amount of beef intake is replace a couple meals a week with beans or even chicken, which does not produce methane and has less negative impacts to the environment. 

    Cutting down on meat will help stop this spread of greenhouse gas emissions as well as give your wallet a break. When you buy your meat, make sure you’re checking for where the meat was produced. Not only is locally produced meat better for the environment, it is also healthier for you. 

  4. 4. Start thrifting and support local businesses

    Fast fashion is a very common trend, where retailers mass-produce cheap product as new trends and styles emerge. Fast fashion prevents retailers from ever running out of stock, as they mimic runway styles and celebrity wardrobes. 

    Some fast fashion brands like Forever 21, Zara and H&M receive new shipments daily. Online retailers like Fashion Nova and Zaful are also huge outlets of fast fashion. While this may seem like an okay situation, it’s quite the opposite. 

    The fast paced production and replication of clothes also means the clothes are very low quality and so they wear out fast. The Good Trade reports nearly 11 million tons of clothes thrown away annually are at the hands of fast fashion in the USA alone.

    Fast fashion not only harms the planet but also the humans making and wearing it. Pesticides, lead and other harmful chemicals are commonplace in the production of fast fashion garments.These chemicals usually never breakdown and so humans are constantly exposing their bodies to them as well as releasing them into the environment. 

    Wearing fast fashion pieces directly exposes your skin to these toxins, which is a very dangerous thing. 

    The workers making these garments are underpaid, underfed and constantly exposed to toxic chemicals as conditions in sweatshops worsen due to the high demand in the fast fashion industry. 

    One easy way to do your part in boycotting fast fashion is thrifting. Not only are you decreasing waste, pollution and supporting local businesses, you also come out with a piece of clothing that not many people have. 

    Black Market on Queen Street West is my favourite place to thrift by far. Not only do they have amazing second-hand pieces but they also make custom pieces that constantly feed the street style junkie within me. My favourite thing about Black Market is that everything ranges from $10 to $20 or less. Buying clothes there this past year and a half has saved me major dollars. 

    Check them out on instagram @blackmarketvinatge 

    When you do buy first-hand clothing, make sure the product is fair-trade, non-toxic and cruelty free.