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How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint on a University Student Budget

Growing up in a small town, sustainability has always been something to consider. I have always had a compost bin, shopped local and never had restaurants near me, so eating dinner at home was our only option. Since going to university, however, I have realized that it is very hard to live a green lifestyle. Most of the time it is more expensive or time-consuming to go green and we all know that the two main things university students lack are time and money. However, there are still ways to focus on sustainability as a university student. As it is Earth Month, I challenge you to try at least one of these tips per week! Who knows, maybe they will fit into your routine and you can adopt a healthier, greener, more sustainable lifestyle.

Reusable Produce Bags/ Shopping Bags

This is by far the easiest switch to implement in your life. Both reusable produce bags and shopping bags reduce the amount of plastic you are consuming at the grocery store, as well as reducing the cost of your groceries as you are no longer having to purchase plastic shopping bags every time you check out. The best part: you can buy these bags from your local grocery store for a just few dollars each.

Metal Straws/ Reusable Cups

This is another easy, budget-friendly switch that you can make as a university student. I know how much we all appreciate a good iced coffee and this is the perfect way to make sure that your daily drink purchase doesn’t end up in a landfill. Purchasing a metal or silicone straw helps you do your part to save the turtles, while also reducing your single-use plastic waste.

Reuse Your Red Solo Cups

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t actually put your drink in a Red Solo Cup when playing beer pong, right? If this is the case and there is only water in the cups, there is no reason why the cups cannot be reused weekend after weekend. While this may seem weird at first, it is not a hard habit to start. The next morning, simply empty out the water, let the cups dry and put them somewhere for safekeeping until the next game. This also saves you from having to keep spending money on cups!

Public Transit

While it may not be the most glamorous thing to do in university, taking the bus over an Uber or taxi helps reduce your carbon footprint. We all know that carpooling is the future, so why not save yourself some money during the next bar night and take the bus into town instead of calling an Uber. Another alternative is biking, as this not only saves on gas but also keeps you in great shape.

Composting

Having grown up composting, I am shocked every time I walk into a friend’s home where they don’t compost. It is such a simple thing to do and requires little to no effort on your part but makes a huge impact on our world. It is completely free to do, and the only thing required of you is to remember what goes where.

Wash Your Clothes on Cold and Less Often

As university students, I know we all dread doing laundry. It takes so much time and a whole lot of effort. Well, here is my solution. By washing your clothes less often (meaning only when they smell, you have spilled something on them or after multiple wears), you are able to do less laundry (yay you!) and you are also using less water and energy (yay Earth!). As well, when you do wash your clothes, try to wash them using cold water.

Less Delivery, More Pickup

Until I started university, food delivery was a foreign concept to me. It had to be a super special occasion for my family to dine out and when we wanted to order food, we always went to pick it up. Since being exposed to the convenience and freedom of food delivery, I have found myself ordering food from a store that is only a five-minute walk away, and I know that I can’t be alone on this. Next time you want to order delivery, consider picking it up. This will save you money on delivery fees, as well as save the Earth from unnecessary gas emissions. Also, consider making more meals at home.

Shop Local

We are so lucky to live in a university town with access to an enormous farmer’s market, but I rarely see students taking advantage of this. By shopping at the farmer’s market, not only are you getting better quality food, but you are also supporting local farmers and reducing your carbon footprint. Unlike chain grocery stores, farmer’s markets have no need to drive massive amounts of food across borders, which emits harmful fumes into the Earth’s atmosphere. It is also a lot cheaper to buy your produce from the farmer’s market, especially if you go later in the day as there are often end-of-day sales.

While sustainability may seem like a daunting task as a university student, it is not as difficult as you may think. I encourage everyone to start small by implementing one or two of these eco-friendly tips into your life to start. Once those are second nature, try adding a few more or looking into bigger ways that you can help save the beautiful planet that we inhabit.

Emma Soden

Wilfrid Laurier '22

Emma is a 3rd year English student at Wilfrid Laurier University with minors in Global Studies and Criminology. She is passionate about reading, writing and fitness. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism with a focus on sports.
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