Vineyard Landscape

7 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

Earth Day is April 22 every year, and to many, it was most likely just another ordinary Monday. However, Earth Day is a day to remember that we should take care of our planet, but we should be doing that every day. When we were little, Earth Day was celebrated. It was a day where we reflected on how we should be taking care of where we live (i.e. cleaning up our local beaches, turning off the water while brushing your teeth and recycling basically everything). In college, we get so busy with homework, exams and finding time to sleep that we often forget about our environmental impact. By doing these seven easy steps, we can reduce our environmental footprint and support our planet.

1. Unplug chargers from outlets

Leaving chargers plugged into outlets uses energy for no purpose besides our own laziness. While the amount of energy used isn’t necessarily significant enough to change the fate of our planet, unplugging your chargers will end up saving you roughly $100 a year and the satisfaction of decreasing energy accumulation. The phenomenon of leaving chargers plugged in with nothing to charge is known as phantom power — responsible for five percent of total energy used and $3 billion dollars wasted annually, according to the Department of Energy. I’ll admit, I’m bad at this one as I charge my phone constantly and leave my charger plugged in. It would take approximately .5 seconds every morning and night to unplug and replug. 

2. Turn off lights

Turning off lights saves energy, and also money, so if you are living in an apartment you should likely be doing this anyway as you are paying for electricity. Electricity is generated through power plants and stations that burn coal, crude oils and fossil fuels. The electrical usage of fuel is greater than nuclear emissions and wind. The carbon emission rates are higher than ever before, even more of a reason to make a change in the ways we use electricity. By conserving the energy from turning off the lights, you are creating a more sustainable environment.

3. Recycle! (And compost if possible)

As college students, we are constantly getting paper handouts that we likely never look at again and to-go boxes from the union that are actually compostable!! While the Unions do not have composting bins, they do have recycling, so USE THEM! Campus Residence Halls have composting buckets, recycling (separated by paper and plastic!) and trash. Make sure to delegate properly and use the right bins. Recycling and composting helps in keeping materials away from being treated at municipal landfills where extreme gases and electricity methods are utilized to dispose of the waste. Composting gives back to the soil and enriches the ground while recycling allows for products to be revived for a second term. It is up to us to give back to the environment and give it another chance.

4. Pick up litter in your community

We go to a party school, which means it’s not uncommon to see bottles, bags and other litter items lining the streets – especially on Langdon. When you see an item you know doesn’t belong lying on the ground, pick it up and throw it away or recycle it. Every piece of trash that is taken away to be recycled or deposited in a landfill means there is one less dangerous item for birds, turtles or fish to swallow.

5. Take the stairs as opposed to elevators

After a long day of classes, we have no desire to take the stairs… except, we should always want to take them. Taking the stairs is not only beneficial to the environment but also has health benefits. In an hour, an elevator uses the same amount of energy that a desktop computer and monitor would use running for 30 minutes. By ditching the elevator and walking up stairs, we will be saving 33 pounds of carbon dioxide a month! We walk up Bascom on a regular basis (or at least the stairs at college), so why can’t we climb up a few flights of stairs?

6. Visit the local farmers market

The Dane County Farmers Market is finally back in full swing, and it’s better than ever. Getting local produce means that you know exactly what you are eating and that your food is farm to table. The average food that ends up in your local grocery store travels an average of 1,500 miles to get there. The shipment of produces contributes to pollution, large amounts of waste from packaging and fossil fuel production. The food at the farmers market travels much shorter distances and is normally grown in environments that use less energy, making them more sustainable to the Earth.

7. Reusable water bottles

On average, Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, and the number is only climbing. Of this 50 billion, only 23% are recycled, meaning that nearly 38 billion plastic water bottles are trashed. This leads to increased pollution and landfill waste, producing $1 billion annually in landfill costs and fuel usage that equates to 912 million gallons of oil. The solution is simple: we should use reusable water bottles to reduce waste.

While hopefully you already do most of these seven steps to reduce your carbon footprint, we can always do more for the environment. Earth day should not have to be our motivator for giving back to the environment and making it more sustainable. Turn off the lights, reduce, reuse, recycle, and pretend that every day is Earth Day!