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How Students Can Stay Green in College

Although the spring semester is almost over, it’s never too late to start thinking up ways to make your life on campus a little better for the environment. In fact, with finals over you’ll have some time on your hands to plan for your eco-friendly return in the fall. You may not have access to all of the same amenities you enjoy at home (like your mom’s organic vegetable garden, solar panels, a pick-up recycling service, or your family’s electric car), but there is actually a lot you can do to reduce your carbon footprint on campus.

Here are just a few ways to employ the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) while you’re working towards your own bright future.

1. Hike, bike, and bus. One of the easiest ways for most college students to save the environment along with a little money is to eschew the use of a personal vehicle. Yes, a car is a symbol of freedom and it can be quite convenient. But the truth is that most college students can’t really afford all of the expenses that come with a car anyway (insurance, registration, gas, parking, etc.). And whether you live on campus or nearby, you’re likely close enough that you rarely have use for a vehicle anyway. Plus, most campuses offer some kind of discount on bus passes, which are likely a lot less expensive than keeping a car in any case. By making the decision to non-op your car, leave it at home, and walk, bike, or ride the bus, you’ll make a big difference for both your budget and the environment.

2. Conserve. There are so many ways you can conserve, even when you don’t have access to low-flow toilets and alternative energy. For example, you can wait until you have a full load of laundry to run the washer and then use only cold water. You can get long-lasting, low-energy CFLs for your dorm room and use natural light as much as possible. And you can turn off the AC unit and electronics when you’re not in the room.

3. Recycle. Nearly every college campus has instituted some type of recycling program so that all you have to do is take the cans and bottles that build up in your room to a designated drop-box in order to ensure that they don’t clutter up the landfill. However, there are other ways to recycle, as well. For example, when getting rid of clothing of furniture you can donate to a charitable organization (like Goodwill), or if you’re dumping electronics that no longer work you can contact the local trash company about dropping off hazardous materials for free.

4. Ask for organics. The campus cafeteria may not offer organic or local options, but that doesn’t mean you can’t request them. With enough student signatures on a petition you can get the attention of the administration, and if you do the research and present them with locally-sourced, organic options and ways to save money on these items, you might actually do something good for your college and the Earth at the same time.

5. Start a community garden. If you simply can’t get the organic foods you want on campus, think about organizing a community garden. You don’t have to pursue an MSW online in order to help others in your community, and by starting such a project you can bring students together to do something that is good for them and the environment, as well as involving the campus in an outreach project that could have resounding positive ramifications.