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5 Ways to Green Your College Life

September 18, 2012

West recycles

Whether you are a pro at living a green lifestyle or you are completely new to the concept, college is a great place to practice environmentally-friendly habits.  Below are five simple tips to help you have a green college experience.

1. Recycle Whenever Possible

Recycling is the most basic (and easiest!) way to green your college life.  Recycling is of the utmost importance, as the United States Environmental Protection Agency cites that recycling not only helps to conserve natural resources, but also decreases greenhouse gas emissions, prevents forms of pollution, and stimulates the economy.  Many college campuses make recycling very simple, providing recycling bins throughout dormitory buildings and across their campuses.  Be sure to check where your school’s recycling facilities are located.  Also consider investing in some bins for your dorm room to organize your recycling.  If you provide yourself with the opportunity to separate your recycling from your trash, you are more likely to regularly recycle items such as used paper and plastic bottles.

Recycling is also imperative to protecting wildlife.  According to The Ocean Foundation, over one million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution, along with hundreds of thousands of other sea creatures such as sea turtles and whales.  Plastics are easily mistaken for food by these creatures, which leads to digestive system blockages and death.

If recycling and environmental protection is an area you are passionate about, definitely consider joining a student group on campus oriented towards environmental affairs!  Recycling clubs and environmental groups are a great way to get involved on campus.

2. Turn off your Lights Every Time you Leave your Room

Lighting accounts for 5-10% of total energy use each year, so by turning off your lights when you are not home you are helping to eliminate wasted energy. (Added bonus: your electric bill will be lower!)

3. Invest in Reusable Bottles, Plastic Bags, and Cutlery

Using reusable water bottles, grocery bags, and cutlery is a great way to green your college experience.   Approximately 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year.  Not only does the production of these bags strain energy and resources, but the improper disposal of them threatens and kills wildlife.  Using a reusable shopping bag, or simply saying “no” to a bag and putting small items in your purse or backpack instead, makes a huge difference in energy conservation and environmental protection.  Similarly, 50 billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills in the United States each year.  Investing in a reusable water bottle and some non-disposable cutlery is a great way to conserve energy and help the environment.

Make sure to try to reuse and recycle any disposable products you may acquire.  Using plastic shopping bags as trashcan liners is a convenient way to keep from wasting them, and make sure to try to recycle all plastic bottles you use.

4. Donate

Donating clothes and household items is a great way to help the environment and to aid those in need.  The Gaia Movement, a Swiss group for Environmental Protection, reports that on average 1 pound of clothes sold as second-hand saves 5.9 pounds of CO2 from the environment, and that 1.7 pounds of CO2 are saved when 1 pound of clothes is recycled into fibers.  Keep this in mind, particularly around semester breaks when you are in the process of moving.  Some schools partner with local charities around this time and set up bins on campus for clothing and small household item donations, but every school has different policies, so be sure to figure out if your school runs a donation program.  If not, be sure to check out what charities accept donations in your area.

5. Unplug your Electronics When Not in Use

Unplugging your appliances when they are not in use is an essential way to save energy.  Even when appliances such as computers and televisions are turned off, they still draw energy from the outlet.  Known as standby power, such power accounts for 5% of residential electricity costs in the United States reports Stanford University’s Sustainable Choices blog.  Unplugging your appliances will not only help to save the environment, but will also lower your electric bill.  Consider plugging your appliances into a power strip to make the shutting off and shutting on of your appliances a simpler part of your daily routine.

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