Living on campus can often make it seem like making eco-friendly choices is nearly impossible to do. Individuals can make simple swaps to be kinder to the planet but thankfully, the solution doesn’t rest solely on the consumer.
Being kinder to our planet is acknowledging that as individuals, while we can and should make choices to make our everyday lives a bit more sustainable, it doesn’t take away from the fact that corporations are the ones responsible for the oil spills and huge emissions of greenhouse gases. Did you know that only 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Carbon Majors Database? Out of those 100 companies, the largest 25 players produce 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. By holding corporations accountable, you are also taking the pressure off individuals, which is the goal, as no one person can fix the problem.
Even though the solution shouldn’t rely on individualism, each person can make simple swaps to cut down on their waste.
One of the simplest things anyone can do is to use a reusable water bottle. Find a cute and functional one. Not able to afford a brand-new one? Look around thrift stores, or even find them for free around campus. Clubs or other events often give them out as prizes. Then fill them up again and again around campus. Most buildings have bottle-fountains and you are often able to see how many plastic water bottles that machine has saved since it was installed. If you are a person who doesn’t really like the taste of plain water, grab some drink flavors or add some fresh fruit. Drink flavors may come in small plastic bottles, but when you do the math you are saving nearly 20 plastic water bottles from the landfill for each small plastic bottle.
Another thing that is simple to do, but does require a bit of planning ahead, is bringing reusable silverware and not grabbing the plastic that often comes with cafeteria style food if you are getting take-away. You can buy sets or make your own. Grab a fork, spoon, knife or even chopsticks and add them to your bag. If you have a small towel or washcloth you can wrap them in that with a hair tie to keep them together. This allows you to wipe them off when you are done and ready to go for next time. If you are eating in the dining hall, use the metal silverware and real plates when available.
If you are unable to do any of the above ideas, that’s OK. We all have different abilities and capabilities. There are many other ways to be kinder to our planet this school year. One easy way is to turn off lights when you leave your room and unplug any cords you aren’t currently using. Something else that is very accessible is to throw your trash in the correct sorting bin. Most products will have a recycling symbol on them if they are able to be recycled. Another simple yet often forgotten choice is to just lower your consumption rate. Whether that is new clothes or decorations, take some time to think if you really need another shirt or that new pillow. If you do need new clothes, check out thrift stores or online reseller options, such as ThredUp or Poshmark.
So yes, use your reusable water bottle, turn off your lights, bring your own silverware, but don’t forget to call out corporations and businesses that make money off our suffering planet. Write to companies you want to see change, support sustainable businesses and call your representative to vote for legislature that will help our planet, not harm it.