Go Green on Campus
You can make a difference by making some environmentally-conscious choices while living on campus. Take a look below at this article from Radish Magazine for a few green tips that will take you to the head of the class.
Shop smart for dorm room digs
The shopping cart is out, the time has come, and all that lies between you and your first day on campus is a list roughly 380 items long. Shopping for college supplies can be a daunting task, so proceed carefully to ensure that the glimmer of price tags aren't blinding you from making smart, eco-friendly options. When investing in appliances for your dorm or off-campus hideaway (computers, refrigerators, vacuums, TVs and fans), make sure they are Energy Star rated or have been given the thumbs up by EPEAT, a website that rates electronics based on their environmental impact. If you're a tech junky, consider a Smart Strip Power Strip, which automatically shuts off computer peripherals, like scanners and printers, when your computer isn't in use to further save energy. And while you're at it, you can pick up a bedroom fan (which utilizes less energy than air-conditioning) and a pack of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) for all those late-night study sessions.
Smart savings: 50 percent of energy can be conserved by using Energy Star rated items. Visit www.energystar.gov and epeat.net for complete listings
Rally for reusable products
Uncle John's vintage concert T-shirts and stone-washed blue jeans aren't the only gems you'll discover in thrift stores — hit the aisles for great deals on gently used clothing to garner a personalized style on campus and a thankful bank account to boot. For other eco-friendly options, bring along reusable cloth bags on your next grocery outing rather than stocking up on plastic bags that quickly will litter your dorm room. Also, establish a favorite mug and/or BPA-free water bottle and reuse daily — no need to frighten Mother Nature with an onslaught of plastic and Styrofoam. And don't forget, the pens and pencils that served you well last year can be used again — they don't have an expiration date.
Smart savings: Hundreds of dollars can remain in your wallet simply by choosing to buy your clothing for $5 or $10 versus the $25-plus price tags often toted in department stores.
Say 'Thanks, but no thanks' to trays
You don't use trays at home when it's time to eat, so why pick up the habit when you go through the campus cafeteria line? True, trays are reusable, but before someone else can use them, each tray has to be washed. That adds up to a lot of water and energy use — multiply the number of students on your campus by three trays a day, and then imagine all those trays going into a dish washer. And, because you carry less food on a plate than a tray, you not only waste less, you also eat less. Going green in this case also can help prevent the dreaded "freshman 15."
Smart savings: Water, and lots of it. The University of Florida, for example, estimates it saves as much as 470,00 gallons of water annually by eliminating trays from its dining halls. That's not all. According to one study sponsored by Aramark, a cafeteria service provider for many universities, when students forgo trays, 25 to 35 percent less food ends up in the trash.
Pause before hitting 'print'
The next time your syllabus taunts you with a 40-page reading assignment, reconsider before printing out an article that is heavy enough for weight-lifting exercises at the campus gym. Instead, share a reading with a friend and print double-sided as often as possible. Additionally, if your professor allows it, consider downloading your reading to a Kindle, iPad or laptop for class in order to further conserve paper.
Smart savings: According to the EPA, recycling 1 ton of paper saves 15 to 17 mature trees. And if our country were to cut its use of printing and writing paper by just 10 percent, the United States would stop the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases — that would be akin to taking 280,000 cars off the road and 60,000 trucks of solid waste out of landfills. Read more at environmentalpaper.org
Put your feet in motion
Most local institutions boast small campuses and convenient, nearby destinations, so set aside those scooters or car keys and walk a mile or two. Or, if you're bent on having wheels, grab a bike or clamor aboard the city bus, which is often free for students.
Smart savings: Nearly $9,904 annually for those who don't drive, according to American Public Transportation Association - that's about $825 more a month you'll have to save, engage in campus and local activities, or buy economically-friendly products. Plus, not bringing a car to campus eliminates countless college parking woes.
Don't get the back water blues
Understandably, the shower can serve as the ideal venue for an impromptu morning concert, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average person uses about 100 gallons of water per day so try to shave your shower time down to five minutes or less (still enough time for one good belting number). Additionally, students living off-campus should install low-flow showerheads in their tubs and invest in rain barrels, which collect rainwater that can be reused for landscaping and gardening purposes.
Smart savings: By cutting your shower time down to 5 minutes, you save 12.5 gallons of water, says a University of Georgia study. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy states that 25-60% of water can be saved simply by using a low-flow shower fixture. Log onto paystolivegreen.com to calculate the energy and water used by the length of your showers; also visit quadcityrainbarrels.com for more information on locally-made rain barrels.
Involve folks on the top of the hill
Don't fret about doing this solo. Some of the most radical environmental occurrences have come from students who have encouraged their college administration to get involved in the "green campaign." For example, Augustana College in Rock Island has recently adopted plans for the school's new student center that include a hydroponics system to grow edible plants indoors.
Other successful campus-wide initiatives have included a Green Campus Move-Out Day at New York University, a wildly successful event that collected unwanted dorm items at the end of the year and donated them to area businesses and organizations instead of sending them to landfills. And St. Olaf College in Minnesota has a 1.65-megawatt wind turbine that provides 33 percent of the entire campus' electricity.
Inspired? Get some friends together and pursuade your school to sign the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a coalition of higher education institutions that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hinder the effects of global warming. Visit presidentsclimatecommitment.org for more information.
See also these tips on living lightly on campus.