Being an Eco-Friendly College Student

By Julia Terhaerdt

The idea that being environmentally friendly has to be expensive, where you only buy the most costly eco-friendly products, is a myth. In reality, there are many ways in which you can do seemingly small things that make a significant impact on the environment. Even if you are a college student and don’t feel like you necessarily have the time and resources, there are many simple changes you can make in your life that can make such a difference. Here are a few examples:

  1. One of the easiest things you can do right away is to cancel your junk mail. The amount of unnecessary pieces of paper that come in the mail to go straight into the trash is ridiculous even in today’s world, where much of our lives are online. For only $2, you can go to http://www.dmachoice.org, and they will remove your name from mailing lists, and if you go to http://www.optoutprescreen.com, you can opt-out of credit card solicitations. These are two easy ways to reduce the amount of needless paper that comes into your mailbox. 
  1. If you do not have a low flush toilet, put a water bottle full of sand in your toilet tank. This is not something you can do if you live in the dorms, but if you live in an apartment or a house, it is an easy way to reduce the amount of water you use with each flush.
  1. Wait until you have a full load of clothes to put in the laundry before running the machine. Why run it more than once, doubling the water usage, when the same results can be received with half the work? Another tip when doing your laundry is to wash your clothes in cold water. Creating warm water uses a lot of energy. If you have the opportunity, make sure you change the setting on your wash machine before you hit start. On top of that, it may be better for your clothes and make them last longer. It is much less likely that your clothes will shrink, or the color will run if you wash in cold water. Some of your clothes will recommend that you wash them in warm water, so make sure you check out the label before throwing it in!
  1. Buy a few reusable containers and cups and stick one in your backpack. Then, whenever you grab a coffee or pick up a snack, ask if they can put it in your container or cup. Most places are happy to do it if you just ask. Most people own a lot of water bottles as well, so make sure to carry one of those around instead of picking up a bottle of water whenever you are thirsty. There are water fountains all around campus, and many coffee shops will refill your water bottle free of charge with cold water.
  1. This may seem obvious, but turn off the lights when you leave a room. It is simple and can save a lot of energy. On top of this, unplug your devices when they are all the way charged. It can be easy just to leave them plugged in, but it continues to waste power and is not very good for the battery itself to do so.
  1. Take shorter and colder showers if you can. Again, it takes energy to heat warm water. This might be difficult and uncomfortable because the last thing you may want to do when getting in the shower is be cold and wet, so consider doing a half and half shower where the first part is warm and the second is cold. Studies show that taking cold showers has many health benefits, like increasing circulation. It will also help wake you up and get your day started if you are a morning showerer. 

As the clock ticks on, it becomes increasingly evident that we cannot keep living the way that we are or soon we won’t have an Earth to live on. Asking everyone to make substantial lifestyle changes is not realistic, so just starting with a few simple things like this is an excellent place to start. I encourage you to make an effort not only in your own life but also in spreading these ideas to your friends and family. The more people we can get to implement small things like these, the more significant the impact will be, and the more time we will buy to come up with more prominent solutions.