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A College Guide to Living More Sustainably

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Aug 22, 2022

It’s that time of year again where university students are moving back on campus and getting ready for their year ahead! According to the NRDC, the average dorm room consumes 30.2 percent of its electrical energy while you and your roomies aren’t there. That’s because appliances continue to draw power from electrical outlets even when turned off or idle. Whether you’re a first or fifth year student, here are some tips from The GREEN Program’s alumni community on how to set up your living situation to be more sustainable this year.

In Your Dorm

  • Using a power strip to plug in your computer, phone, and coffee maker is a smart way to binge-watch your favorite Netflix original series and a great way to save electricity. Be sure to disconnect your plugs when they’re not in use to avoid wasting “vampire power”.
  • At college, going to a bank means traveling off campus which can be a hassle. So go virtual! Avoid all paper bank statements and bills by paying online or on your phone #no #more #deforestation 
  • Try and reduce your overall paper waste by emailing those term papers to professors or printing double-sided. GREEN alumna Kelsey Kaline says a good way to reduce paper waster is to avoid printing out a 40 page PowerPoint when you’re bringing your laptop to class.
  • SHARE. We all know that you spend 100% too much time on social media anyway, so you might as well like and share posts about environmental and social justice to spread the word.
  • Conserve water by taking shorter showers (less time in those lovely college communal bathrooms!)
  • GREEN alumnus Corey Norton shares, “This is a pretty small thing but totally changed my life and is pretty relevant for college kids. Put milk in the cup before coffee to eliminate the need for wasteful stirring sticks or spoons…seems like a small thing but when finals come around and you’re having five cups a day, it makes a difference!”
  • GREEN alumna Kelsey Kaline suggests, “Wash your clothes in cold water.” This tip not only saves energy and your clothes from shrinking. 

On Campus

  • Rally for Meatless Mondays at your campus cafeteria or better vegetarian options (Recommended by TGP Alumna, Kelsey Bradley) 
  • Avoid bringing plastic water bottles to class and invest in a reusable water bottle. GREEN alumna Kelsey Kaline even recommends you “bring your own coffee mug to your local study spot.”
  • Join a sustainability club and attend their events to learn more about sustainable practices, or get three friends and start a club if your school does not have one.
  • Be a leader. Take a look at your college’s policies and see what needs change to become make your school more sustainable. Connect with your campus’s sustainability or DEI office to advocate and get involved.
  • GREEN alumna Kelsey Kaline says, “Don’t get a to-go container in the cafeteria unless you are actually in a rush.” 
  • Take advantage of sunlight and find time reconnecting with nature by studying outside ☺ 
  • GREEN alumna Katie Stevens shares, “Don’t use straws or plastic utensils! They are used once then sit in landfills forever.”  Use a reusable utensil set or even better, just pack standard reusable utensils from your kitchen!
  • GREEN alumna Larissa Row explains,  “Every campus has different facilities and resources available, so get to know your sustainability office! They often have tips on how to reduce waste and live sustainably in your every day life. Mine also had some resources they would give out, to assist with changing behaviors, as well as tons of informative events where you could get free stuff. It also had various programs you could get involved in to learn more about sustainability in general and to spread awareness around campus, so I’d definitely suggest stopping by there to see what your campus has to offer.” 
  • Opt-in to use your campus’s public transportation services and be sure to use your student discount to help the planet and your wallet. If possible, bike or walk to your classes to reduce your own emissions.
  • Get connected with The GREEN Program community by reaching out to a TGP Ambassador near you! Meet our TGP Ambassadors HERE!

In Your Community 

  • Shop local! Whether you live in an urban setting or a bustling college town, support local businesses. Extra points if you bring reusable shopping bags. 
  • Try to go to a farmer’s market once a week or somewhere you know is selling sustainably made food. 
  • Use public transit or ride your bike (if proximity allows) to cut down on fossil fuel usage. 
  • Go thrift shopping! Thrifting is a fun way to repurpose clothes, furniture, and household items to get your dorm or apartment move-in ready.
  • Be a part of your community garden! Creating green spaces helps offsets carbon emissions, and you can grow sustainable food to eat! 
  • Fill out that absentee ballot or go home to vote, so you can elect leaders that share the same passion for sustainability. 
  • Volunteering on local sustainability projects is a great way to give back to the community and participate in service during your college years! 
  • Get involved and join local sustainability or environmental organizations. These can be a great way to meet like-minded peers, expand your network, and get involved in topics that you care in your own communities.

No matter how you choose to live more sustainably this year, just remember that we need more people achieving a sustainable future in their own imperfect way. Every bit counts, and the more friends and roommates you can get involved in the conversation goes a long way.

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