When you throw something into the trash, it doesn’t just vanish into thin air, though we’d like to think it does. The world is overflowing with trash and most of America’s trash is sent to countries like Ghana, India, and the Philippines, where people have to live next to the harmful toxins that trash produces. Global warming is already in effect and the population is growing more and more by the minute.
If everyone worked towards living a more sustainable, waste-free life, many of these worldwide issues would become less severe, and our planet would be happier and healthier. Even in college, you can still work towards being sustainable and try to limit the amount of waste you put out into the world.
This is the first word in the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle.” While most people recycle and consider this sustainable enough, that isn’t actually true. The initial goal should be to reduce the amount of trash you produce.
One simple way to do this is to store leftovers in glass containers. These will serve as tupperware that is better for the environment than plastic tupperware. By doing this, you won’t have to throw out Ziploc bag after Ziploc bag. Just wash the container and use it again!
The good thing about college is that most professors grade papers online or have online tests, which reduces paper waste. If you’re able to study using typed notes, do that instead of using paper for your notes!
2. Buy food without packaging
If you’re the kind of college student who goes to grocery stores, you can buy certain foods in bulk. Bring a mason jar or some reusable cloth bags and fill them up with dry beans, rice, or granola. You can use the same reusable bags to pick up fruits and vegetables that aren’t packaged with plastic. This can also help you eat healthier, because processed foods aren’t as healthy as natural fruits and vegetables.
If you eat at your school’s dining hall more, investigate to see if your school provides reusable containers. USFSP sells large reusable containers that can hold a meal or two at once. If your school doesn’t have containers like these, contact someone on campus to get a program started!
Instead of using a paper cup at the soda fountain, bring a reusable bottle. If you don’t have one, buy one! It’s more worth it in the long run than it is to throw paper cups out every day.
Thrifting has become more popular recently, which is a form of reusing – reusing clothes. If you’re about to throw away (or preferably donate!) a shirt of yours, look up how you can use that shirt. You can use it as a washcloth, cut it up into another style, or turn it into a purse. I’m not sure how people first realized they can make bags out of shirts, but it’s pretty cool!
Use old glass jars – like from pasta sauce, salsa, or pickles – as cups to drink out of. You can use old cans as pencil holders or a cup for your toothbrush.
This is the tip people talk about the most, but we’re now realizing that recycling isn’t as effective as we’ve heard. Most of what goes to recycling centers doesn’t even get recycled. This is partly due to what people put into recycling bins, believing it recyclable when it’s not.
For example, people will recycle a water bottle with some water left at the bottom and a cap on top. While bottles are recyclable, caps are not, so it’s much better for the environment to use reusable bottles anyway. When recycling something, there also should be nothing left inside, like water or shampoo.
You can look up what’s recyclable in your area. USFSP has signs near our recycling bins that have a few images of what is recyclable. What a lot of people probably don’t know is that you can even recycle aluminum foil!
Think of recycling as a second to last resort. The last resort would be to simply throw everything out and not recycle anything. Recycling definitely helps, but you should work towards reducing and reusing first!
Via Xia Serpenta
If you’ve eaten a banana and don’t know what to do with the peel, you have the perfect opportunity to put the peel in a compost bin. Compost gets rid of a large amount of unnecessary food waste and when it’s done composting, it benefits the soil it’s added to.
Not every college campus has a compost bin, so this isn’t always possible during your college years. However, if you’re lucky enough to live near a compost bin, ask to see if you can contribute to it with some of your food waste. If you want to establish a compost bin on your campus, you can contact your school to see if you can set up a compost system.
6. Stop using plastic straws!
As you’ve probably heard lately, plastic straws can be deadly when they get into the ocean and into a turtle’s nose. This is an easy fix – buy glass, bamboo, or metal straws that are reusable. Paper straws are better than plastic straws, but they aren’t reusable, so try to stay away from them. I’ve even seen people use large, hollow pasta noodles as straws.
7. Support sustainability efforts
The last tip I have is simply to be supportive when you see new sustainable efforts popping up around you. If you truly can’t afford some of the products I’ve mentioned, your support is very important. You can sign petitions online (change.org is my current favorite) or sign local petitions, especially for your school. Start your own initiative or help someone who wants to start a sustainable program at your school.
Via Xia Serpenta
Every little step makes a big difference!