Green Options Vs. Easy Options

I believe all college students are short on three things- time, money, and sleep.

If this is true (and it sure is for me and my friends) then students are always striving to protect those three resources. Saving time and sleep amounts to valuing convenience, efficiency, and comfort. Sustainability, however, often calls for a somewhat higher than usual expenditure of time (and effort). However, it is certainly effective at preserving money and offers a wealth of other benefits in exchange for that loss of time.

Consider shopping. Colleges make a fortune by making groceries (prepackaged meals, single servings of various snacks, etc) or office supplies available at locations on campus. College students who are new to the local community are often more likely to turn to these locations, despite their highly elevated prices. If a student wants to eat healthier, purchase items at lower prices, and support their community, they only need to do a little research and be willing to walk, bike, or bus a short distance. But that can be a bit much to ask for given the stress of college life.

Hence the conundrum of a sustainably-minded college student. The benefits are plentiful- community involvement, saved money, a sense of pride and independence, and of course reduced emissions or product use. The only downfall is applying oneself to those values which are so different than those of convenience, efficiency, and comfort.

For myself, a bike ride is far superior to an Uber ride, but there have certainly been times when my energy waned enough for me to yearn for such an opportunity. And while thrift shops might altogether be a cheaper, more interesting than online shopping, and far more sustainable way to acquire clothing, it can be difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for, or perhaps you need it in the time span that only Amazon’s next day shipping can accomplish.

The point of all this is to say that in order to choose sustainability on campus a student has to make their choice at the front. What are your values? What will you look back on and be happier to remember? The chaos of an afternoon with friends roving the racks or clumped into the back few rows of the bus seats? Or the dopamine spike of getting a package in the mail and the haggle of how much everyone needs to chip in for an Uber? They’re not easy choices to make in the moment.

I’ve found that when in groups the motivation is almost always towards those simpler means of quickly and easily accomplishing a goal. Indeed, coordination is hard enough without the extra hoops to jump through. Similarly, event planning as a student leader with the intention of running eco-friendly opportunities for student engagement can be a hassle. How do you plan to coax students into attending without the tried and true means of attraction? Posters are a short-term waste of paper, giveaways a certain resident of trash bins in res-halls everywhere, and food seems to only be a byproduct of paper plates and plastic silverware. Such endeavors rely on student willingness to cooperate, a healthy budget, and the sheer bullheadedness of the event planner.

But, if done correctly, sustainable events can be a role model for other events and for the students that attend them by showcasing resources and providing higher quality experiences and rewards for involvement. In turn, the efforts put into making choices that lean towards a sustainable goal can really be much more rewarding and save you on some inconveniences in exchange for that certain amount of effort and engagement.

And hey, what’s wrong with procrastinating that research paper by investigating bus routes or getting out of your dorm by planning a trip to the grocery store? I’ve personally found it to be a much better use of my time.

Written by UVM Guest Writer: Cate Kreider 

*Edited by Annie Stibora.