As a college student, reducing your carbon footprint can be difficult. Most of rent or live in dormitories, so the idea of replacing shower heads with low-glow models or toilets with water-saving versions is less likely than if we owned our own homes. On the flip side, because we are college students, we tend to avoid some of the big carbon footprint causes anyway. Many college students do have a car and most of us have a roommate. Both things have drastic impacts on your budget and your carbon footprint.
But we do travel a great deal more than most people with trips home for the holidays or to Florida for spring break, so there are still things that virtually every college student can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Here are some changes that I am going to make in my life and that I believe other students can do without causing themselves unnecessary hardship. I will change the way I wash clothes and buy second hand. I will recycle and use rechargeable batteries and I will sign up for electronic bill pay and call to have all my junk mail stopped.
When you start to think about it, some of the thigns that are good for the planet we do reflexively as students. Most of us walk or ride the bus to school, because nobody wants to fight for parking. That automatically reduces your carbon footprint. Most of us also live with at least one roommate in a generally small space. And, the less living space you have, the smaller your carbon footprint is for heating and cooling. Then, there are the things we do as college students that mom never warned you about, but you do to save money.
Remember that concept of sorting laundry by colors. Yeah, right. We’re students so the washing machine is always full when we do a load of laundry. The one thing I am going to change is I will switch over to a cold water detergent and wash my clothes in cold water. Reducing your carbon footprint by doing fewer loads of laundry is a good start; reducing it further by washing them all in cold water is an added plus. As a bonus, it is likely that I will not shrink my favorite sure or dye my socks red when I use only cold water to wash my clothes.
Another easy change for college students is to buy second hand furniture instead of running to Wal-Mart to furnish your dorm room or apartment. Best case scenario, rent a place that is already furnished and spend the money ou would have spent on furniture on something else. If that’s not an option. Check out the local thrift stores, garage sales and second hand furniture stores. Pawn shops are also a good option. Lots of times this stuff is barely used, bought by some less environmentally conscious student and used for a semester or maybe a year and then discarded.
Again, the money you save could be used for something much more fun and the landfill space you save can be used for living. Another easy step for most of us is to buy an energy-saver power strip to plug in cell phone chargers and laptops and all the other electronics we keep in our rooms. Then, we you leave for campus each morning, hit the kill switch. Or, unplug the whole mess. This has three bonus effects that will appeal to every college student. First, unplugging things when they aren’t being used cuts down on energy costs, cutting your electric bill. Even if it is only a few cents a day, it adds up.
Second, it prevents a power surge from frying your laptop or cell phone and third, it reduces the risk of electrical fire. So, don’t think of it as saving the environment ro cutting your carbon footprint, think of it as protecting your stuff and saving your money. One way I intend to save money is to buy rechargeable batteries for my iPod. Replacing all the batteries in the house with rechargeable ones cuts down significantly on the toxic chemicals headed for the landfill and in almost no time begins to save serious moola that every college student needs more of.
Recycling is also an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint, but it is important to take it beyond the traditional soft drink cans and white paper. For example, how about recycling your bottled water? Instead of buying and throwing out a new bottle every day, buy a bottle at the beginning of the semester and keep it. At home, use a water-filter pitcher to refill the bottle for the next class or the next day. Again, this can be a huge savings to the average students who spends at least $1. 25 for that soft drink or bottle of water to take to class. In just one week of classes, that a $6 savigns and five fewer bottles headed for the landfill.
Even if you were to recycle those bottles, they would need to be washed, prepped for recycling and go through the manufacturing process all over again costing tons of energy instead of the simple act of refilling a bottle. Another huge way that I intend to save the planet and me is by switching to electronic bill pay for all the bills that I can. No more running to the post office to get stamps or trying to find the right envelope for the cable bill. Paying all my bills online saves the planet and helps me balance my checkbook as I can see right as I am sending the payment how much money I have saved by changing these things in my life.
And, at the same time, I am going to call to have my anem taken off the junk mail lists. Reducing the amount of mail I get each year reduces the number of trees cut down to produce paper and more trees means more carbon dioxide sucked up by their leaves and turned into oxygen. There are more drastic ways to cut your carbon footprint. You could eliminate the spring break trip or try composting, though I don’t think that campus security is going to appreciate compost piles at each of the dormitories.
Instead, another way to save drastic amounts of energy is to reduce the temperature in your room by even one or two degrees. And remember all those tiems your dad yelled at you to turn out the lights when you leave the room, even for a minute? Turns out he was right, but you don’t have to tell him so. Another important way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eliminate any unnecessary printing. Work hard to convince professors to use on-line grading options and permit digital papers. Avoid printing email or any other random communication that isn’t necessary.
When you do print, use both sides of the paper or single space as a way to get more information in a smaller space, reducing paper use and the need for energy to produce that paper. Use a digital voice recorder instead of making shopping lists. Students who do decide to drive to campus should consider walking or catching the bus. Riding a bicycle is also a great option to get around campus fast enough to get from one class to another without being late or adding to your carbon footprint.
Those who live far from campus should reduce their number of trips home and car pool whenever possible. Another suggestion from earthlab was that you consider turning off the television or the computer for at least an hour every day and find a more energy conscious way to spend time. This can also be a great way to fight the freshman fifteen: take a walk, go to the gym, take a swim. Anything that gets you moving is good for you and good for the planet. The most important key to making a difference in the world around us is to be aware of the little things.
Warming up (or cooling down) the car before aking a drive can add tons of needless greenhouse gases to the air. Likewise, making extra trips to the store to buy something you really don’t need can be wasteful as well. No one is expecting college students to radically change their lives, give up their iPods and go back to the Stone Age. I have every intention of enjoying my access to technology and energy, but I will do the things that I can that contribute to the improvement of the planet without taking too much time or effort from me, or if they save me money.
Things like keeping a full refrigerator and only opening it when actually getting things out. This reduces the amount of energy the fridge uses, saving me money and making my food stay fresh longer. This is a good change. An empty fridge, though a staple of the poor, broke college student is not a good environmental asset. Likewise, I will use the music player on m computer rather than having my computer and stereo running at the same time, using excess energy. I will wash in cold water and I will always do full loads of clothes.
I will avoid ironing (Yes, that pledge was a hard one) by hanging my clothes up in the bathroom while I shower to reduce wrinkles. I will recycle everything that I can and buy rechargeable batteries. I will unplug my electronics when theya re not in use and I will flip the kill switch each day when I elave to come to classes. I will reduce my junk mail by calling to have it cancelled and I will use electronic bill pay. No matte rhow much fun it is to browse catalogs, I will have myself removed from random mailing lists and I will avoid driving to the store just to look around.
Instead, I will commit meself to keeping a low carbon footprint now, knowing that it will invariable rise when I graduate college and join the working world. In preparation for that, I will do what I can now to adopt an energy efficient lifestyle so that my future consumption will not be as bad as it might otherwise have been. I will look for energy efficient apartments when I find my own home, buy a fuel efficient car and look for energy saver appliances. The changes that I make in my life do not have to be extreme to make a difference.