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Monday, September 9, 2013

Ecofriendly Economics: Going Green at College

15 Ways for College Students to be Greener in their Dorm and on Campus

As a first time college student this semester living in a sustainably conscious residence hall, I am acutely aware of my impact on the planet and my ability to have a greater control over that impact, especially now that I'm living on my own. 

             Think about it, Freshmen. For the first time in your life, you have complete control over how you live and how you spend your money. That means you can have more control over how sustainable or unsustainable you are.
            So, in today’s Ecofriendly Economics section, I am providing fifteen ways that college students, like myself, can be more green in their dorm and everyday habits. Ithaca College students: look for the bold sections to see information that specifically relates to our college and the Ithaca area.

1.     Buy a house plant.
Not only are house plants aesthetically pleasing, but they make great air purifiers for your dorm. Some notable air purifying plants include spider plants, bamboo, and Areca palms. I myself purchased a hoya plant. I named him Marley. 
Marley, my hoya plant

2.     Carpool and use public transportation, also, bring your bike.
If you brought your car on campus, be sure to communicate that to your roommates, friends, and fellow residence hall members. Plan your grocery trips ahead of time, and send out a text to everyone asking if they could use to go to town. When any clubs you're involved with organize off-campus events, offer to provide transportation to that event. Don't be afraid to ask for gas money or to turn down requests for rides when you're too busy.
Find out what kinds of public transportation your area has. Are there buses? Subways? Find the schedule, price, and locations they run so that you can be prepared when you find yourself in need of transportation. Ithaca College students: TCAT is the main bus service in Ithaca. Check out their website here. Ithaca also has a car share program; click here to see the website. 
Bring your bike to campus! Not only can it help you get to class faster, but you can use it to go into town. Invest in a bike basket so you can go on small grocery trips with your bike. Not only do bikes produce zero carbon emissions, but they are a great form of exercise.  IC Students: be sure to register your bike with public safety! You can do it here.
Want to challenge yourself? Check out this past Green Challenge related to biking.
3.      Use the furniture provided by the college.
Instead of buying new furniture for your dorm, use the furniture that's already there. It will take less time for you to set up your dorm, and you'll find out quickly that money disappears fast at college. You'll want to save as much as you can. You can still personalize your dorm, whether or not you buy new furniture. 
4.     Buy used and consign items you no longer want.
It might be tempting to buy all new things when you get to college, because you're starting a new chapter in your life. However, buying used is not only sustainable, it saves you a lot of money. First, when you think you need something, take the time to consider whether or not you really need it. If you decide the answer is yes, look into thrift shops in your area and plan a trip (invite your friends, too!). Also, check online with Amazon and Craigslist. 
Also, when you decide you no longer need something, don't throw it away. Give it away or consign it. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and that's especially true in a community of poor college kids. IC Students: TIOLI (Take-it-or-Leave-it) is a great resource on our campus. At the end of the year bins are put out where you can drop off things you no longer want- and you can pick up other people's forsaken items for free! TIOLI is located year round in the basement of Clark Hall. Visit this webpage to find their hours. Similarly, OSCAR (Office Supply Collection and Reuse Center) gives people an opportunity to drop off and pick up office supplies. You can find their hours on the same page as TIOLI hours.
5.     Buy energy efficient appliances.
When considering what mini-fridge to get for your dorm (or if you live off-campus, there are many more appliances that may be needed) shop for energy efficient models. A great standard to look for is Energy Star approved. Also, make sure you use your appliances wisely and save on as much energy usage as possible. 
6.     Use power strips so you can easily shut off all devices at once. Also, consider smart outlets.
Plug all of your various device chargers and occasional-use electronics into a power strip, and when they are not in use, or when you leave the room or go to sleep, turning them all off will be as easy as flicking one switch. Also, consider investing in a smart outlet. These outlets recognized when your plugs aren't being used, and they cut the power to that specific outlet. To read more about smart outlets and how they work, check out this past Ecofriendly Economics post.
Speaking of flicking switches, make sure you turn off the lights when you leave the room. This not only includes your dorm, but also bathrooms, classrooms, and conference rooms. IC Students: your college encourages you to turn out the lights, and even puts signs on the switches! So DO IT! 
7.     Make use of your college’s recycling and composting programs. If they don’t have one, try to start them.
If your college offers recycling or composting, make sure you educate yourself on what you can put where, and then commit yourself to using these resources. Have a recycling bin in your room, so that you can carry all of your recycling down in one trip. If your college does not have one or both of these programs available, change that! Gather students and faculty who also wish to have these programs, and plan a time to meet with your college officials to discuss it. Make sure you've done your homework and you know ahead of time what the pros and cons of installing these programs will be, and develop an argument that supports the pros and offers solutions to the cons. Develop a petition and circulate it around campus. 
IC Students: Not only does your college offer recycling and composting and provide you with recycling bins for your rooms, there are also Terracycle bins. Many of them are located in Campus Center: they are tall, cardboard boxes with Terracycle written on them. These bins collect non-recyclable waste to be converted into useful items such as backpacks, pencils, and notebooks. You can put chip bags, candy wrappers, hummus containers, ink cartridges, energy/granola bar wrappers, writing utensils, beauty supplies, and, yes, SOLO cups, into Terracycle bins. Since the college gives us two recycling bins for our dorms, I converted one of them into my own Terracycle bin, so I can take everything down in one trip when I need to.  
My second recycling bin converted to a Terracyle bin
8.     Don’t do laundry unless you have a full load, and realize you don’t have to wash everything after one use.
Make sure you can fill up the washing machine before you do your laundry. Also, use the cold water option to reduce your energy use and preserve colors. When you use cold water, you can put whites and colors into one load without fear of color bleed. If you don't have a full load but there's something you absolutely need washed, like a sports uniform, ask a friend who is doing their laundry if you can add it in. Also, you can re-wear some things a few times before they need to be washed, such as pants, bras, and towels. So, don't wash them every single time if they're not dirty.
9.     Be conscious of your printing habits. 
While some schools impose printing fees, others, like Ithaca College, have free and unlimited printing (although that is changing next year at IC). For colleges who are free and unlimited, it might be more tempting for students to print things without really thinking about it. No matter what your school's rules are about printing, always be conscious of your habits. Before you print, think, do I really need this? If it's an online resource, consider forgoing printing it out and do your work on your laptop. Also, if you have the option, make sure you print double sided so one side of the paper doesn't go to waste! If you're printing web pages, you might get those couple of extra pages that come out with only a few letters on it. Save those pages and use them as scrap paper; don't let them go to waste.
Lastly, always make sure you recycle your paper- don't throw it in the trash.  
10.  Be conscious of your helpings in the dining halls.
Food waste is a major problem in the United States and around the world. The world produces enough calories to feed everyone, yet hunger is rampant not only in third world countries, but developed countries too. 
If you're really hungry or you see a lot of delicious-looking food at your dining hall, resist the urge to take portions that are too large. Make sure you can eat everything you put on your plate. Eat slowly; it takes time for your brain to register that you're full, and if you ate too fast, you might find yourself overstuffed. Keep in mind that if your college doesn't compost, all food waste will end up in the trash and taking up space in a landfill. 
IC Students: Ithaca College supports Meatless Mondays, and encourages you to take the Meatless Monday pledge. Going meatless once a week has lots of benefits, and everyone does it for different reasons. Eating less meat can be healthier for you. It reduces the amount of meat being consumed, and therefore, the amount of animal slaughter and violence in the farming industry. Also, reducing the need for meat is environmentally friendly. Meat needs to be transported from production site to retail site, and that requires carbon emissions. Also, an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into producing a single pound of beef. To learn more about Meatless Mondays, check out this website.
Also for IC Students: There is an organization on campus that makes use of the college's leftover food. It's called SWIFT (Stop Wasting Ithaca's Food Today), and the club meets on Fridays at Towers Dining, rescues food that wasn't eaten, packages it, and then delivers it to local food pantries to feed the poor. Without SWIFT, this perfectly delicious and edible food would be send to the compost pile.   
11.  Keep your showers short: other people sharing the community bathroom will appreciate it.
I'm notorious for taking long showers. In my defense, I have a head of long, thick hair to wash and comb through, but it's still something I need to work on. 
Challenge yourself in the shower and try to get out as quickly as you can. If you're sharing a community bathroom with a floor of people or more, others who are waiting will certainly appreciate it. It also has the added benefit of conserving water.
Have a boyfriend or girlfriend at college? Unless it requires one of you to sneak into the bathroom of the opposite sex, go ahead and take showers together on occasion. It saves water, and I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun as an added benefit. 
While you're waiting for the shower to warm up, collect the cold water and use it to water your house plant or wash your dishes.
12.  You have control of your grocery shopping now: take advantage of it. 
Buy local, buy organic, buy items made from recycled materials, buy items with less packaging, and don’t forget your reusable bags! Keep an eye out for certain labels that signify the product was made sustainably. To learn about these labels, check out this past Ecofriendly Economics post. Also, I know organic can be expensive, so on that same previous post, check out a guide for what produce is safer to buy non-organic than others (in terms of pesticide contamination).
IC Students: Ithaca has a wonderful farmer's market that you should definitely check out. To find out more about hours and vendors, go to the Ithaca Farmer's Market's website.
The local Wegman's and GreenStar markets have lots of organic, environmentally conscious product options. If you sign up with the Wegman's Shopper's Club, you get a coupon for a free reusable bag!
Also, the coffee shop in Campus Center, across from the information desk, sells FairTrade products, including coffee! Be sure to bring your own coffee cup to save on waste and money.
13.  If your college doesn’t require them already, install fluorescent lights in your room.
Fluorescent lights use less energy and last longer than conventional light bulbs. To learn more about them, check out this past Ecofriendly Economics post.
14.  Spread the sustainability message in your residence hall. 
You know that really cute whiteboard on your door that you don't use that much? Write on the white board what you do to be more sustainable, and hopefully some passing residents will see it and be inspired. Also, use it to advertise when you're making a trip into town so that people can carpool with you. Talk with your friends, and compare notes on your green strategies. Hang signs over community trash cans gently reminding people to recycle and compost. Put sticky notes next to light switches reminding people to turn off the lights. Talk with your RA about developing green habits in your hallway. 
And, of course, tell people about Viridorari! (And any other awesome green blog you may follow)
15.  Get involved with your school’s green clubs.
If your school has environmentally focused clubs, get in touch with the club officers and consider joining them. If you don't have time, ask the officers to send you emails about what happened in the meetings so you can stay informed. Encourage your friends to come with you to meetings. You can learn a lot from these clubs, and become more involved in the environmental movement than you ever dreamed you could.
IC Students: As you probably know, your school has LOTS of green clubs, some of which were mentioned in this edition of Ecofriendly Economics. Although our Student Organization Fair has already passed, there is another Org Fair coming up later this month that specifically focuses on our college's environmental clubs. Stay tuned, and look out for more details about the event in the coming weeks. This could be the perfect opportunity for you to get involved in sustainability. 
Remember, no matter what college you go to, your opportunities are unlimited. You always have the option to start a club or organization, and chances are if you're really passionate about a subject, it will draw people to your new club like moths to a light. 
Good luck, and remember, your life is your hands now, not your parents. This is the perfect time to make a habit of living more sustainably.  
P.S. because of my busy schedule, I will be revealing September's Animal of the Month tomorrow (Tuesday the 10th).

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