By Makenna Hill
Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard of something called “sustainability.” It is likely that when you think of sustainability, things like reusable straws, thrift shopping and the slogan “save the turtles” come to mind.
Although some may see sustainability as a trend for teenage girls, there really are a lot of benefits to sustainability, especially as a college student.
I do want to disclaim that I am not trying to convince you to single handedly save Mother Earth, but some of these tips can save you money.
Think about the last time you went to pick up groceries. What did you carry your groceries in as you walked out of the store? It was most likely a plastic bag.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the average American household brings home approximately 1,500 plastic bags annually.
The Center for Biological Diversity also said that plastic bags take 500 or more years to degrade, and they do not entirely degrade but just break down into microplastics which can continue to pollute the environment.
With all this talk about why plastic bags are so bad, you may be wondering what you can do to help reduce this problem at a local level.
Asking for paper bags instead of plastic, if they are available, politely declining a bag or bringing your own reusable bag are just a few of the easy changes you can make as a start.
I also want to mention that you do not need to purchase an expensive, aesthetically pleasing, organic cotton cloth bag to avoid using plastic bags.
It is completely fine to use a bag you already own. I know I can be guilty of wanting to purchase things just for the aesthetic which is also totally fine.
Additionally, you can shop secondhand at thrift stores or wait for items you’re looking for to go on sale.
Plastic on Campus
I think students are bombarded with huge amounts of plastic any time food items are involved. The cafeteria is not the only culprit on campus.
For example, when you look at vending machines and the food options in the McMahon Centennial Complex (MCC), most of the food is served in single-use plastic containers or Styrofoam containers (which are not easy to recycle).
What can you do as a student? You can choose not to purchase items from vending machines that are in single- use plastic containers, you can inform Dining Committee about purchasing recycled paper options for single-use food containers or you can try taking your own container.
This last option may not currently be applicable considering restrictions regarding Covid-19, but in the future, it may be a great option to ask about.
Single-use plastics at home may include shampoo bottles, plastic cutlery, trash bags, plastic dishes, toothbrushes the list could go on and on.
What are the alternatives?
For shampoo bottles, you might consider using a shampoo bar or using a refillable shampoo bottle like those offered on such websites like PackageFreeShop.com.
You can try to eliminate purchases like disposable dishware. According to Catalina Logan from sciencing.com, when you factor in the energy and resources used to make each type of plate, the cost of paper or plastic plates usually outweighs the cost of ceramic plates.
Another way for you to be more sustainable is to look for compostable trash bags, which can also be ordered online.
Many stores now offer bamboo toothbrushes which are naturally biodegradable and prevent more waste from going to landfills each year.
Overall, there are many options to help you become more sustainable as a person on the local, campus, and individual levels.
Any effort you make toward sustainability will have an effect. So even if you are only able to implement one or two changes, you can still contribute to lessening the waste humans create that end up in landfills and take centuries to degrade.