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The Living Green Series: How You Can Save The Environment As A College Student

College students are often at a disadvantage when it comes to living green. We use a lot of electronics, can’t always compost or recycle due to the lack of environmental initiatives in our apartment building and our busy schedules lead us to buy packaged and pre-made foods on the regular (that’s a lot of wasted packaging). And with those closed doors, we can get discouraged about our inability to prioritize environmental sustainability, while understanding how important it is to contribute to something worth so much– taking care of our own planet. Keeping my own experiences in mind, I wanted to create the Living Green series to explore AND inspire myself and others to find ways around our current lifestyles and prioritize saving the earth. In the first article of the series, I am here to introduce you to 5 ways you can save the environment as a college student.

Tennis, two people playing tennis
Photo by Mudassir Ali from Pexels

The obvious- reuse & recycle

Reusing and recycling have withstood time to remain important staples of environmental consciousness. Discourses on sustainability have risen to prominence more and more in recent years, raising awareness on the importance of reusing and recycling. Unfortunately, with this movement, there also comes numerous companies preying on consumers to shop specifically for their line of sustainable products under exaggerated incentives. This phenomenon actually takes away from the message of the movement by instilling the narrative that your ability to make sustainable changes is only as good as the items you buy. This notion is false, and you can create just as much change by using the resources you already have, without exhausting your bank account. Simply turn your old plastic bottles into a planter to grow your own vegetables at home or repurpose worn sheets and towels into cleaning rags. Save your old school bags and take them to the grocery store to avoid purchasing a plastic one, or upcycle last year’s closet by using fabric from old clothes to sew into new pieces.

Go paperless

My heart aches for this one– I love having a tangible, physical copy of my text in front of me, whether that be for school or just for leisure reading. I prefer written notes over digital ones, and I used to go out of my way to print my syllabi and lecture slides. However, I’ve come to get over my preferences after reflecting on the insane amount of resources that opting for print depleted. Say what you will about the modern age, but one of its undeniable perks is getting to go paperless, solely for the trees that it saves. And, with close to 45,000 students on campus, all with their own academic and professional expenditures in paper, opting to go digital will save tons of money on printer ink while making for some very happy trees!

Shop locally
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Shopping locally cuts down on the transportation costs of shipping produce across state or county lines and is a great way for you to support your local vendors. Luckily, Westwood village sets up weekly farmers’ markets so you will be able to contribute to your local economy while getting your grocery shopping done! Head over to 1036 Broxton Ave. on Thursdays to explore the pop-ups and enjoy some fresh fruits and veggies. Shopping locally also applies to items outside of produce, including clothing, cleaning supplies, school materials and much more. Consider buying what you need at stores within your area to cut down on your footprint in packaging waste (It’s also much cheaper without the shipping fees!).

Meal prep

Meal prepping is the college student staple, if you can get the routine down. It conveniently takes the guessing game out of wondering what your next meal will be and where it will come from, while saving you tons of money on the alternative of ordering takeout. The cost of stocking up on groceries for the entire week will oftentimes be lower than ordering just two meals on Ubereats. Meal prepping also allows you to practice mindful consumption and to avoid wasting food or overeating. Through the practice, you are able to further make sustainable and conscious choices about your diet, such as cutting out meat or dairy.

Support secondhand

Many of the affordable clothing options nowadays are often fast-fashion brands– which is unfortunate for the stylish student on a budget– and the environment. Luckily, thrifting is a great way to rehome preloved pieces and keep them out of landfills. The pieces available at second-hand stores are much more budget-friendly, which makes upcycling a low-stakes endeavor, if you are new to it like I am. Shopping second-hand doesn’t have to be limited to clothing or actual thrift stores either. You can shop unique and preloved pieces (clothing, furniture, home appliances, art, etc.) at local pop-ups, garage sales, from independent artists and even online shops like Facebook marketplace. Another way to reduce your waste when it comes to shopping and consuming is donating. Buying from the community is important, but giving back is equally important. Wash and package your gently used or worn items you no longer need and donate them to local charities to keep them from ending up in landfills. 

I hope you found this set of tips particularly helpful, or should they not work for you and your lifestyle, that they have inspired you to take action in other ways. Remember that environmental consciousness is a practice and there is no “one-size-fits-all”. All contributions, no matter how big or small, go towards a greater cause. What is one practice that you can implement right now to reduce your carbon footprint?

Shannon Mia Vo is a third-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Disability Studies. This is her second year writing for UCLA's chapter of Her Campus, and her first year as Assistant Director of Editorial, so she is excited to learn as she goes. Shannon loves to write and believes that words are an essential catalyst for storytelling, education, advocacy, and expression. When she isn't writing, she can be found crafting, rewatching her favorite sitcoms, working out, or browsing through booktok!
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