Five Eco-Friendly Things You Can Do As A College Student by Emma Holland

Emma Holland

My name is Emma Holland. I attend the University of Texas at Austin, where I’m majoring in Sustainability Studies. I am here to share some sustainable things you can do as a college student.

As a college student, it seems as though our on-the-go lifestyle makes sustainability seem  unattainable. Students are always on the go with a busy schedule, disposing of things quickly, and attempting to meet conventional expectations of the modern day world. However, as someone who cares about sustainability, I am here to tell you that you can be eco-friendly while on-to-go. By taking small simple steps to prioritize sustainability, you can start living sustainably as a college student and help fight global warming and climate change.

refillable water bottles

#1) Reusable Water Bottle(s): As we all know, water is an essential resource to us. As college students, it is important to stay hydrated as you go from class to class, while you’re studying, exercising, etc. A majority of students still buy plastic water bottles. While you can recycle your bottles, the majority of the time these bottles end up not being recycled and go straight to the landfill. Plastic pollution is extremely harmful to our planet by releasing harmful chemicals, affecting marine life, and creating  plastic waste that is harmful to the  Earth.

This is why switching to using a reusable water bottle or any form of reusable cup/mug is important and transformative. The average human needs to drink four plastic bottles per day to meet the daily water intake requirements. By using reusable water bottles you would be saving 1,460 plastic bottles per year. I use a Hydro Flask. Instead of paying for a bottle of water everywhere you go, plan to purchase a reusable water bottle that you can now use indefinitely without causing harm to the planet.

office supplies, school supplies

#2) School & Office Supplies: When the school season starts again, we usually rush to the store to grab new school supplies. But, have you ever stopped to think about how many times you’ve bought those products on a yearly basis or where they end up? Most of the time, people don’t know how to dispose of school or office supplies so they end up in the trash and straight to the landfill. While there is no defined solution to this problem, there are some things that you can do when planning to shop for school and office supplies as a college student.

The best option before you go out and buy new things is to see what you already have and think about how you can reuse, repurpose, rethink, or upcycle what you already have. I wait until all my pens are used up or I clear out a binder of notebook paper to use what is still available to me before buying new.

However, when you are in need of buying some new supplies, consider getting them secondhand from a friend or family member or look into creative reuse stores like Spare Parts (San Antonio, Texas) or Austin Creative Reuse (Austin, Texas). These stores have second hand options for school and office supplies at a reduced price which is especially important as a college student. If these stores are unattainable to you, there are other sustainable platforms like EarthHero that offer sustainable options, allowing us to shift away from certain corporations who don’t care for the planet.

support local businesses

#3) Eat & Shop Local: As a college student, when it comes to making purchases , we tend to consume from large corporations that usually don’t care how their company’s footprint is  impacting the planet. One solution to standing up against big businesses (and, they’re lack of keeping sustainability at the forefront) is  to eat and shop local. Consuming things at the local level means less impact on the environment. Eating from restaurants that make and grow their food in the same city or state is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. H-E-B and Whole Foods have signs in each section that say whether a product is local or not. As a reminder, local means less emissions, meaning less impact on the environment. As a student at UT Austin, there are monthly food markets on campus from the UT farmstand that brings local produce to its students to help them eat more locally. While this may not be an option at your school, seeing if your school has a similar option or even shopping at your local farmers market are just some ways you can shop and consume at a local level.

thrift store books

#4) E-textbooks & Secondhand Books: As students, it is essential for us to use textbooks throughout our college experiences. Each semester, we have to buy new books. One sustainable thing students can do is to reduce the production of textbooks by buying and/or utilizing e-textbooks and second-hand book platforms like ThriftBooks. Having the online version of a book helps with not having to physically produce the book which saves more trees. Additionally, buying books second-hand improves and lengthens the life cycle of the book by giving it a new life each time someone uses it. I have used ThriftBooks because the prices are reduced significantly and I know that I am helping keep the book in circulation.

#5) Limit car use: While car use is not prominent for every college student, depending on where you live and go to school, the use of a car is almost always necessary at times. Unfortunately, cars create a lot of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere like carbon. Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere, which causes worldwide temperatures to rise. A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This assumes the average gasoline vehicle on the road today has a fuel economy of about 22.0 miles per gallon and drives around 11,500 miles per year. Every gallon of gasoline burned creates about 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide.

While commuting to class, or just in general, the best options include walking, biking, taking public transportation, or carpooling. The best options are to walk or ride your bike since neither of these produce toxic pollutants like carbon. Public transportation and carpooling are other options since you are operating on a ride-share system which can minimize large amounts of carbon by limiting the number of people on the roads. Even though cars are still a part of our lives, we can shift away from them and help reduce the impact of global warming.



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