Hi everyone, it’s been a while!
Today, I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for some time now. With the pandemic and a globally awful 2020 in general, some concerns have taken priority over others. Sadly, that doesn’t mean the other problems have taken a back-sit; most, if not all other global problems (especially environment and climate related) continue to haunt us. This is from where comes my sudden urge to write about an environmentally conscious student life.
Just like many people, I also automatically assumed that it must be the younger generation who is environmentally more aware. So, I was quite surprised to know that research indicates that the most pro-environment bunch are actually the middle-aged people-those in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Which made me wonder, why is that!? The most common answer I got was that most younger people are rather misinformed about the ‘cost’ of living an eco-friendly life.
Having an environmentally friendly lifestyle when you are a university or college student can be challenging. We live quite a hectic life mostly focused on classes, studying/research and socializing (not particularly in that order) and so don’t spend much thoughts on being environmentally sustainable. However, turns out there are quite some easy changes any student can incorporate in their life to be more eco-friendly! These small changes in your lifestyle not only help your carbon footprint , but also your wallet! Some of the points I’ve mentioned below work as a double practice of sustainability and money-saving.
More often than not, after reviewing the material or practicing the problems we tend to move on without ever giving those a second look. So in order to be more eco-conscious, try using temporary, re-usable surfaces like whiteboards or whiteboard notebooks instead of paper.
Another friendly advice is to avoid printing whenever possible. And if you must, print on both the sides to reduce paper usage. Also, try using digital flashcards instead of paper ones. Not only are they more convenient to carry around and keep track of compared to paper flashcards, they also come with some really nice features.
2. Note taking
I think probably everyone saw this one coming. Try to use digital platforms (like laptops or tablets) to take notes instead of paper books. However, not every student has all the resources at their disposal. A tablet and stylus may not be available to everyone. Or if you are someone like me, who sustains information much better when writing the notes instead of typing them, then this might be a bit difficult for you. So I suggest, if you are taking notes on paper, look for notebooks or papers made out of recycled materials. There are quite a few companies out there that make and sell recycled stationary. (e.g JetPens, EcofriendlyStationary)
Now, what to do with your notes when you no longer need them? One of the best options and the one I used frequently during my undergrad is passing them down to your juniors or friends who are taking the same course. May be they can do the same and continue the trend! Another option is to sell them online. And if none of that works for you, the last option is to send them for recycling.
Now let’s talk about books. Libraries are great resources for being environmental friendly and also for saving money. I think every university student should take advantage of their institute’s library. You can also buy secondhand books either online or from a bookstore. One tip though, when you do have the book, avoid writing into them; instead use a separate paper or digital notes. This way you can re-sell it or pass it onto someone else without damaging its integrity. There are various platforms on the internet that allow exchanging of books ( e.g. breaking book barriers). Lastly, using e-books is a great option. With e-books there are no worries of carrying them around campus.
3. Stationary Supplies
Now moving onto the supplies, one of the best, easiest and cheapest way one can be eco-friendly is by the method of re-purpose or reuse. There are numerous DIY tutorials on the internet teaching us to re-purpose something we already have. I mean seriously, we don’t really need new stationary or other supplies every semester. Try using pen/pencils/markers that can be re-filled. So, instead of buying a new item every time, you can just buy the refills. Usually, the refills come in bigger bulk, single packaging which in the end uses less resources and creates less trash. One such excellent example is a fountain pen.
We can opt for alternatives like borrowing or swapping things with other people. There is also an option of buying or selling things secondhand. In short, use what is already out in the world. If nothing from above works for you you can always buy new things. Things that are durable for a decent amount of time.
Okay, do not hate me for saying this, but the research reveals that one of the most effective change towards an eco-conscious lifestyle is to reduce one’s meat consumption. I’m not saying that you have to turn vegetarian or vegan, but even omitting meat from a meal, one day in a week (e.g. #MeatFreeMonday) can positively influence change. Eating less meat could also reduce the need for dangerous fertilizers and pesticides which are used to help produce the unnaturally large amount of feed necessary to meet the demands. And when you do eat meat, look for hormone-antibiotic free and organic products.
Now let’s move onto vegetables and fruits. My biggest tip- shop local! This might sound obvious, but there is a surprising amount of people who don’t! I understand the easiness of just popping into a supermarket and buy everything we need. But, not many people bother to look up where the stuff is originally coming from. By opting to buy your locally grown produce, not only you are helping the farmers but are also reducing the emissions released into atmosphere in order to bring the products from around the world to the local supermarkets.
5. Travel Habits
I think it’s a no-brainer that the fewer cars on the road, the less pollution in the air. What I want you to ask yourself is, do I really need a car? Chances are, with your hectic schedule, most of the times your car will be sitting in a student parking lot. This will only create additional expenses of parking fees, monthly insurance, regular maintenance and well, gas charges.
Instead, opt for public transports (post-Covid of course) or a bicycle or walking as often as possible. Not only these options are more eco-friendly, but they are also cheaper and healthier options. And if these options are not feasible for you and using a car is a necessity, there is always car-pooling, to contribute your share in reducing the pollution.
6. Saving Energy
This is one of the most important ones. I think the best way to go about this is to listen to your parents haha! It’s not only beneficial for the environment but also for your wallet. Some of those tips include but aren’t limited to: Turn off the lights when you exit the room, try to reduce water waste, avoid exaggerated use of heat and AC, try to take advantage of natural light as much as possible and I cannot press this enough, invest into a good quality, energy-efficient LED light bulb, because you are going to need that with all the studying you’ll be doing.
7. Say NO to Plastic
Again, a very obvious tip. Try to reduce your use of plastics in any way possible. You can use a fabric tote bag for your grocery shopping instead of plastic bags. Buy a couple of good-quality re-usable water bottles instead of buying a new one every time. This will create less trash and you can save money. Another tip I have is to stop using those disposable coffee cups. They may be convenient, but those wax-coated cups are not recyclable and will just end up in a landfill. Instead, carry a reusable cup/bottle with you for your hot beverages. Another tip is to replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one which will last comparatively longer. Similarly, you can invest in some good quality metal straws: They last forever, are eco-friendly and ‘most’ importantly, they make your drink look aesthetically pleasing! jk!
Lastly, I would really like to emphasize that don’t feel discouraged if you are not able to incorporate all these things into your life, because at the end the goal isn’t to be perfect but to reduce the waste whenever you find reasonable without it affecting your lifestyle negatively.
Until next time!
“The simplest way to define ‘eco-friendly’ is the act of living with the intent. The intent is focused on not creating harm to environment and to prevent harm from occurring through your interactions with it.”Conserve Energy Future