6 Ways to Be More Sustainable
SOPHIE VAN DIJKE
The fourth national climate assessment was quietly released at the end of last year, and long story short, things don’t look too great. Predictions made years ago are turning into realities and natural disasters are ever increasing, causing the displacement of millions of people globally. Things seem rather dire. As college students, we are going to inherit this world, so the least we can do is make some changes to our lifestyle to reduce our environmental footprint. Here are some easy and simple tips to change daily habits in small ways that have a large impacts.
Try cutting down on disposable plastic
I love to eat out just as much as the next guy, but eating out often generates a lot of plastic waste due to disposable containers and cutlery. The most famous way to combat this is to shun the plastic straw, which has become a notorious symbol of unnecessary plastic waste. However, there are some other changes that can be made when eating out. For instance, consider buying a reusable cutlery set that is both cheap and easy to store in your backpack/purse. I like keeping a reusable straw and knife/fork in my backpack for when I decide to grab lunch with a friend. It’s a nice and easy way to reduce plastic waste. It can even have its benefits, as bringing a reusable cup to Starbucks will get you 10 cents off your order! Even if it’s 10 cents, it’s a nice little encouragement to bring your own cup.
2. Be mindful of your food consumption
Unfortunately food waste is serious problem in the world, and in the United States. In fact 30-40 % of all food produced is wasted, resulting in an equivalent of 133 billion tons of food thrown away each year according to the USDA. One way we can combat this is to be mindful when shopping for food and buy only what we can eat. Make sure to eat your produce before it goes bad and maybe skip eating out if you have plenty of food at home, it’ll save you money and save the planet. When you do eat out, try to eat everything or get an eco-friendly to-go box and finish the food at home; you paid for it!
3. Compost and recycle
This one is much easier than you think! All across campus, there are recycling bins right next to trash cans with infographics such as the one above to let you know what you can and cannot recycle (just remember to rinse your plastics before recycling them). In addition, there is a burgeoning compost initiative on campus as seen by the compost paper towel bin in bathrooms and the compost station in Jester.
4. Watch your water habits
Cut down on plastic water bottles! This is one of the easiest ways to cut down on plastic usage, and there are many benefits to carrying a reusable bottle: they can come in a variety of sizes, it is very easy to refill them with the countless water fountains across campus, you can get special water bottles to insulate your drinks, you can make them a fashion statement, and most importantly it will cut down on costs. Another way to watch your water habits is to simply take shorter showers. I know how great it is to feel the warm water on your skin or belt out a great song or two, but water shortages are a real problem, and you can save gallons with just a few minutes.
5. Walk, take the bus, or ride your bike
With students getting free bus rides, it’s very easy to use the public bus system in Austin, and it’s a much more eco-friendly option than driving your car. UT students also get discounted access to the B-cycle bikes with stations across campus and the city of Austin, so you don’t even have to buy a bike to bring to campus. Car emissions have detrimental effects on the ozone layer, so opting to walk or take the bus is a small step in the right direction. However, if you have to take a car, consider Lyft, a company which began a carbon-neutral policy!
Finally, the most important way for young people to take care of the environment is to use their voice! Don’t be afraid to contact your local representatives to push for eco-friendly policies and begin to address the climate problem at the local level. Vote for eco-friendly policies and initiatives to show that we want to create a better world to inherit.