Adulting is difficult. But among the many baffling adult responsibilities that I’ve gradually taken on, one of my new priorities is being sustainable. Reduce, reuse and recycle ⏤ you’ve heard it before. At home, my parents always handled the chores that came with being a decent environmental citizen, whereas living on my own forced me to adopt these habits myself.
But let’s face it, living sustainably is a lot of work when your time, money and energy are limited as a student. Plus, young adults aren’t necessarily taught how to be sustainable in efficient and accessible ways. We see many efforts towards the cause as being out of reach, not to mention useless.
These are fair points. A lot of environmental destruction is not the fault of individual consumers. And yet, although I understand it’s not my fault and my fault alone, I can’t help but feel guilt and thus dedication to living an eco-friendlier lifestyle. This is why I’m here to give some easy, practical suggestions to those wanting to lower their carbon footprint and do something good for the earth.
1. Understand your recycling and composting system.
If you have your own house or apartment, you probably take out the garbage, recycling and compost every week, giving you the perfect opportunity to properly sort all your waste. This is a really easy way to start making your household more sustainable. If you live in Waterloo, these links are great resources to find out what goes in the compost and what goes in recycling (I’d imagine this also applies to most other municipalities in Ontario). Fun fact: paper towels and tissues can go in the compost!
2. Make your own food instead of eating out.
Yes, you’ll have to plan your meals, but I promise it’s worth it. Cooking can be not just fulfilling but also often cheaper and less wasteful, as it doesn’t involve constantly throwing out takeout containers. Some tips: buying from a farmer’s market is a good place to get locally sourced (and well-priced food), and eating vegetarian is also both cost-efficient and better for the planet. If you’re looking for inspiration, there are plenty of online recipe articles that cater to students specifically (including one that I wrote!).
3. Reuse what you can.
You can’t always avoid getting more containers and bags, but if they are able to be washed out instead of immediately being trashed, you can create a lot less waste. More and more, I’m seeing restaurants providing takeout boxes that can be reused, so take advantage of them! Of course, fabric bags are also a staple to bring to the grocery store. An essential habit my parents taught me to pick up, however, is handwashing Ziploc bags after using them (except if they’ve stored meat or cheese). Instead of buying everything new, you can save your money and save the planet at the same time.
Once you incorporate environment-friendly habits into your routine, being sustainable becomes second nature. You’ll see that it’s totally doable even with a hectic schedule. With these tips in mind, go out and embrace your inner eco-warrior!