The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes less and less salient in everyday life with more and more people getting vaccinated, the world is returning to its usual busy state. In such confusing and hectic times, it’s easy to forget our responsibilities to the planet that gives us all life. Fortunately, there are so many easy ways for us to give back to the planet and reduce our own carbon footprint in order to leave behind a better Earth for the generations after us. So before you give in to climate change doomscrolling or nihilism, here are five simple ways you can show some love to Mother Earth.
1. recycling (OBVIOUSLY)
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget when you’re hurriedly cleaning your dorm and throwing away trash before a guest comes over. Those old papers that have been stuffed in your backpack for months can easily be recycled rather than chucked in the garbage can, and every empty Celsius can and water bottle can be recycled into something beautiful should you make the simple choice of throwing it into your recycling bin. For college students at universities with sustainability efforts such as UVa, you can find a recycling bin almost anywhere. So next time you’re cleaning up, be mindful of where you’re putting your trash.
2. thrifting and upcycling
This one is a personal favorite. Though it’s tempting for the average broke college student to rush to SHEIN or Zara for affordable, fashionable clothes, these fast-fashion companies often rapidly produce cheap clothing at the expense of the planet. SHEIN has been shown to use microplastics, and Zara has not yet met its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the production process. However, many sustainable fashion brands also boast prices that are inconvenient for the average college student, and this is where thrifting and upcycling come in handy. Thrift stores sell massive amounts of clothing at extremely low prices, and if you find a piece that needs a makeover, then upcycling comes to the rescue. With either a sewing kit, sewing machine, or even just a pair of plain old scissors, you can turn a relatively dated piece into a chic and modern look at an affordable price while reducing your carbon footprint. Before you drop $100 on your next SHEIN haul, consider heading to the nearest thrift store first — you may be surprised at the treasures you find.
3. growing your own plants
This one recently emerged as a quarantine obsession, and it is a beautiful way of showing the Earth and yourself some much-needed T.L.C. At the simple price of a bag of soil and some seeds, you can give back to the Earth while also growing fragrant flowers or delicious herbs and plants to use for summertime meals. Not only does growing plants enrich the soil and make for a luscious garden, but it also brings joy to any amateur botanist who has the responsibility of taking care of a plant from the time it’s a tiny sprout. I found that seeing a little flower bloom or a stalk grow even half an inch could make a bad day ten times better, especially when I was locked inside the house and away from my friends for weeks at a time at the height of quarantine in 2020.
4. studying outside
Though this one isn’t as hands-on as the others, I find that studying outside in the spring is lucrative for getting your to-do list checked off and helps you appreciate the true beauty of nature in the midst of an industrialized, technological world. Seeing the blue sky, blossoming flowers, and green grass while feeling the wind and sun on your face allows you to bask in gratitude for the opportunity to live on this amazing planet, and it also allows for a moment of peace and quiet while your thoughts surround your really stressful exam or paper that’s due the next day. Even something as simple as seeing two squirrels chasing each other while you read a book can sprinkle some happiness into a day that is otherwise really tough, so I recommend opting for a spot in the grass rather than a spot in the library the next time you study.
5. investing in a water bottle and brita
Yet again, this may seem like an obvious one for any college student. However, using a reusable water bottle and a Brita instead of buying cases of plastic water bottles can have a tremendous impact on reducing your own carbon footprint. According to Brita, its customers filtered enough water in the past year to save 13 billion plastic water bottles in the past year alone, thus producing up to four times less carbon dioxide emissions than they would by drinking out of single-use water bottles. Also, personal water bottles are highly customizable and keep your water cool and refreshing throughout the day. If a Hydroflask is out of your price range, I highly recommend Simple Modern water bottles. Their 32-oz stainless steel water bottles can be found on Amazon in a variety of colors for around $20. If you couple their water bottles with a few of your favorite Redbubble stickers, you have a water bottle that is uniquely yours and, best of all, sustainable. Even something as simple as how we choose to drink our water can have a sizeable impact on the planet and ensure a greener future.
In all cases, it is best to carefully consider the impacts of each and every one of our actions on the planet. Whether we help the planet by reducing food waste, opting to walk or bike instead of drive, or even simply turning off the lights when we leave the room, it is vital to remember that each of our actions has an environmental impact that reaches beyond us. This Earth Day, do your part in any way you can to help the planet.