A lot has changed on my college campus over the last three years and I’m not talking about the people who now make TikToks in the middle of the lunch line. When I first stepped onto campus there were no labels on trash bins, less vegan options at the dining hall, nowhere to refill your reusable water bottle, and professors would make you print out every worksheet they required. Fast forward to today, and all these things have changed for the better of the environment. We’re always taught to “reduce, reuse, and recycle;” it sounds vague at this point, but there are many simple and eco-friendly adjustments we can make in our everyday life.
Have a Car-Free Day
If you want to move your legs and get fresh air, consider walking to campus rather than driving. My college campus is small and yet plenty of students drive when walking the same distance would only be a measly five minutes. On top of that, while waiting for friends, they run their cars in the parking lot. Imagine how much gas would be omitted in that short span of time, let alone how often they would do this during the semester? If you’re on a small enough campus, trade in your four wheels for a pair of legs or if you have a larger school, look out for free shuttle bus rides.
Kick it to the Curb, Printer
Remember the days of printing out every assignment you received? Once we switched to remote learning during the pandemic, printers at colleges started collecting dust. In over a year, I haven’t printed out a single piece of paper. As we return to campus, professors will hopefully realize that assignments can be accessed online, rather than printing out hundreds or thousands of papers to hand out. As an eco-conscious student, it’s important to encourage professors to be more mindful of making the switch.
While you’re at the dining hall, choose to eat there rather than taking a disposable to-go box (or try to bring your own reusable to-go container). When you take a to-go box, you’re adding another Styrofoam container and plastic utensils to the landfill. However, if you eat in, it's just a matter of cleaning the dishes you used. Plus, if it’s buffet style… the more the merrier.
Go With the Flow
We usually go through about four plastic water bottles a day, but imagine if we cut that down to zero? Now that colleges are starting to put bottle filling stations throughout campuses, it makes more sense than ever to get a reusable water bottle. Not only does it save thousands of plastic bottles per year, but it also saves money. A reusable bottle normally costs five dollars or less (or more if you buy some Etsy stickers to put on your container) compared to spending a dollar per plastic bottle.
Oh, I Forgot I Had That!
When a lot of students come back home from college after their Spring Semester, all our stuff is stored away and sometimes forgotten about throughout a long summer break. Before you pack everything to go home, make a list of all the supplies that you have that will still be good for the next year. As an art student, there have been plenty of times where I’ve bought extra wads of clay when I already have a mountain of it for the next semester. Don’t be that college student who has extra clay in their pockets, you’ll never live that down.
Educate Yourself Outside the Classroom
It feels good to recycle, but not everything goes in the same bin. When you recycle, you have to separate paper from plastics. Your school may have different bins throughout campus, so make sure that you’re recycling everything correctly. Even when you’re mad about a bad grade on a paper and you just want to throw it out, make sure it goes in the right bin.
No, You Can't Recycle Your Dirty Dunkin Cup
Sorry, but that’s not helping anyone. Whenever you recycle plastics, make sure they’re squeaky clean. If bottles are too dirty, then they’re meant for the trash and they won’t be recycled.
You don’t have to be perfect, but every little bit can help. Whether it’s adopting Meatless Mondays or even just hitting the lights when you walk down the hall to see a friend, all these little things add up to make a big difference.
WRITTEN BY Angela Mascia Monmouth University
Angela is a senior at Monmouth University who is majoring in Graphic Design and the current Advertising Manager of the Outlook Student Newspaper. You can almost always catch her watching a movie or binging the latest tv show. When she’s not in front of a screen, she loves going on walks, making art, and partaking in a little retail therapy.