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Help save the planet while living on campus

By Anna Davidson

The majority of young college students live in a dorm, which means that there is not much space. While you can’t grow your own food or raise your own livestock, there are small steps that you can take towards living a sustainable lifestyle. I am going to share with you my tips and tricks to help look out for our environment while living in a resident hall.

Something to keep in mind while reading this article is this- little effort is better than no effort at all. Even if you don’t change your habits after reading these tips, please remember to recycle that plastic water bottle or pick up trash off the side of the road. Small acts like these can have a huge impact in the long run.  

An easy place to start is the three “R’s”; reduce, reuse, and recycle. These three rules are intertwined. In order to reduce the amount of trash you produce, you can purchase reusable or recyclable products. This is as simple as using a reusable water bottle or avoiding packaging such as packing peanuts or plastic wrap. A common argument against these types of products is the cost. However, when you compare the one-time purchase of a thirty to fifty-dollar reusable bottle with the cost of repeatedly purchasing cases of bottled drinks, you will find that you are saving money over time. There are endless products out there created to replace single-use waste. There are bamboo toothbrushes, mesh grocery bags, and cloth napkins. These sustainable products will lessen the amount of waste you personally create.  

Recycling is a simple thing for students to do. While there is not necessarily an easy way to recycle on campus, I encourage you to put in the extra effort to sort your recyclable trash and properly dispose of it. The more materials that are recycled means that less new material must be extracted from the Earth. This saves money, time, and lives.  

Another low-effort trick is to turn off the lights when you leave your dorm room. Electricity comes from the burning of coal. Coal is a nonrenewable resource; once we burn it all up, we do not have any more. By turning off lights when we do not need them, we can help conserve this resource. More importantly, it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. This is important because large amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere contribute to climate change. This greenhouse gas attracts heat, as well as dissolves into our oceans resulting in ocean acidification. Switching off the lights can make enormous impacts on fossil fuel burning and the subsequent amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

As college students, we cannot always afford to buy new clothes. Instead of seeing this as a hindrance, think of it as an opportunity to find alternative ways to shop. Thrifting clothes is a great way to find unique pieces while also helping the environment. If thrifting isn’t your thing, make an effort to support local clothing stores. Many cheap, trendy clothes are made from polyester. The dyes used on polyester clothing does not dissolve in water, making it difficult to get rid of. As a result, wastewater from textile mills often ends up polluting local waterways. Additionally, polyester is made from plastic. Synthetic fibers that shed off of clothing during the washing process easily slip through filtration systems and end up in our oceans as microplastics. These are just a few of the ways fast fashion is harmful to the environment, not to mention the many ethical problems. Changing how you shop is a fun, easy way to be eco-friendly.  

While all of these tips and tricks are great ways to impact our environment, the best thing you can do is educate yourself. Watch the news, read reports, and talk to your professors. Read the labels of the food and products you buy, you never know what might be recyclable or compostable. If you can educate yourself on the state of our planet then it will enable you to be a vehicle for change.  

Please consider making any of these small lifestyle changes. You may think your individual choices will not have an impact, but I promise you it can. All social change begins with individuals deciding that they want a different, better life. When hundreds or thousands of individuals begin to make a change, the world will change with them. Be an example of how to care for the world we live in.  
Anna Davidson can be reached at Anna.davidson@spartans.ut.edu

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