Nine Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly in College

By Vernon Trollinger, August 27, 2014, Energy Efficiency, Green, Save Money

Most students want to be environmentally responsible, but the trouble with being a college student is that classes, commuting, and studying eat up your time. More often than not, you find yourself relying on convenience rather that what’s good for the environment.

Nine Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly in College

Wouldn’t it be really cool if someone wrote up a convenient list of habits and tips that could help you be more eco-friendly?

Behold! We proudly present these 9 ways to help you become more eco-friendly while you’re at college! Not only are these ways that help you protect the environment, they also help you save a little money. Many of them are easy and free, plus, they give you an opportunity to meet and learn from people —which is always a great education.

1) Obsessively Recycle Everything. Take a few minutes and learn how to correctly recycle plastic, paper, card board, foam, even plastic wrap at your school and in your neighborhood. Look into composting programs at your school and around town. You can even compost in your own apartment.

2) Buy used text books and later resell them. Sure, you probably won’t get even 80% of what you paid back, but reselling books helps extend their life and reduces the cost of education for someone else (maybe a younger sibling). Sure, Statistical Principles of Stone Age Economics might be the dullest brick-like textbook of all time, but reselling or recycling it keeps it out of the landfill.

3) Use 100% recycled printer paper. Making paper eats up forests and rivers. Only print out those assignments and reports when you really need to. Need graph paper? Print your own. Just select the size, save it as a pdf, and print it only when you need it.

4) Avoid buying bottled water. Nearly 25% of all bottled water is really just tap water with a fancy label Factor into that the amount of water used for sanitizing (washing) each bottle, as well as transporting and distributing the 10 billion gallons sold annually, the huge amount of waste becomes apparent. You can save yourself money and reduce waste by getting and reusing one water bottle. Fill it from your preferred source such as an inexpensive water filtering pitcher that you keep in your fridge.

5) Avoid pre-packaged food. Yes, rushing between classes may be a good reason for wanting easy and convenient meals, but consider that many prepared foods come with excessive packaging. For example, individually shrink-wrapped potatoes or blister-packed avocado halves do more to ensure shelf-life than protect you from germs. Also, consider that prepackaged meals usually contain more fat, salt, and sweeteners than what you’d use in a meal you make for yourself. Packing your own lunch can be easier on your planet, your wallet, and your health.

Pack your lunch in cloth lunch bags and use stainless steel utensils and washable containers. Take time to plan your meals in advance and include dinner leftovers as lunch. Plus, consider joining a local food co-op which often give members get discounts in exchange for their working at the co-op.

6) Use cloth grocery bags. Sure paper or plastic bags are recyclable, but they also cost money and resources to make and they increase your grocer’s costs —which get passed on to you. Cloth shopping bags tend to be sturdy and have a long life. Plus, regular washing keeps them clean and germ-free. Some of the best and strongest bags are made using remnant ends of upholstery fabric. When an upholstery manufacturer can’t use the complete fabric roll, they landfill what’s left. Some, however, will sell the remnant ends to artisans who make one-of-a-kind bags. Prices will vary, but many are strong enough to last years (Tip: Make friends with cos-players who can sew). There are plenty of resources that show how to make cloth shopping bags —including ones with insulated compartments for frozen items.

7) When doing your laundry, use the cold water and extended spin settings. Most laundry detergents are formulated to dissolve in cold water. This saves energy from needlessly heating water. Likewise, the extended spin setting wrings more water out of your wet clothes before you put them in the dryer. By the way, if you can air-dry your clothes, that will save even more energy AND save you some money, too.

8) Avoid driving to class. Walk, bike, or use public transportation whenever possible. First, you’ll reduce fuel usage and the emissions that cause smog and increase green house gases in the atmosphere. Second, by biking or walking, you’ll get exercise that benefits your cardiovascular system and increases oxygenated blood-flow into your brain. Thirdly, you’ll spend less time in traffic jams, less time worrying about finding parking, and less money. Depending on where you live, the average annual cost for relying on biking and/or public transportation is $200, compared to over $8,000 for an average car.

9) Use smart power strips. These keep your gadgets, game consoles, TVs, and computer power bricks from using power even when they’re supposed to be “off.” While many power supplies utilize low current loads to remain in standby mode and ready for use, three or four can add up to a significant amount over time — almost 10% of you electricity bill. But, by choosing the right kind of smart power strip to fit your habits, you can reduce your energy consumption.

These are just a few tips to be more eco-friendly. Of course, you’ll find many others that are unique to your lifestyle, home, and locality. But don’t just sit on them: share them. Post your great ideas in the comments section below and help others learn to do more for themselves and their community. After all, isn’t that what education is all about?

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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