If you corner any young, bushy-tailed freshman on a college campus and ask what they want to do after they graduate, there’s a good chance they’ll say some version of “make the world a better place.”
Ask them how they plan to do that, however, and you’ll get a much broader range of answers:“by helping other people,” by regulating Wall Street,” “by liberating oppressed people everywhere,” “by taxing the rich,” or as one of my hallmates candidly admitted “hopefully I can figure that out sometime soon.”
The truth is, long term change requires both structural changes and individual responsibility. While we probably won’t save the world by recycling, making small changes in our day-to-day life as students can bring us one step closer to making the world a better place. Some small changes that you can make today include:
- Bring your own bag
If you’re a liberal arts major like me, numbers hurt your brain, so let’s just say there’s a lot of plastic in the ocean. Like, a lot. Enough for there to be a whole island of plastic floating in the sea. This trash not only kills wildlife, but threatens food safety and quality, human health, and coastal tourism.
Putting your groceries in your backpack or a tote bag takes about two minutes of planning and could save a sea turtle’s life!
- Get a reusable coffee mug
I probably drank about 5 cups of coffee a day my first year of college. That would have been 1825 wasted cups, if I hadn’t been using a reusable coffee thermos. Like I said, I’m not good with numbers, but 0 is a lot less than 1825. You can pick up a $60 one with your school’s logo on it at your University’s bookstore if you have money to waste, or just get a $10 online and spend the rest on overpriced coffee.
- Get a bamboo toothbrush
Think your 8 AM econ 101 lecture takes forever? Your plastic toothbrush takes up to 500 years to properly decompose. and most people throw out three or four a year. That all adds up pretty fast. Getting a bamboo toothbrush instead will not only reduce your carbon footprint but ensure that you have the coolest toothbrush in your entire dorm.
- Stop wasting paper
Money may not grow on trees, but paper does. And currently, 42% of all global wood harvest is used to make paper. In today’s digital age, cutting down paper use is super easy. Take notes electronically. Get PDFs of your textbooks (and definitely don’t pirate them). Ask your professors if you can submit papers online. Ask for receipts to be emailed or texted to you. All of these little actions will stack up over time!
- Ride your bike
Remember that thing you used to do as a kid? Turns out, riding your bike is super good for the environment and is one of the only forms of transportation that does not pollute. Moreover, it’s great exercise and will help you fight the infamous freshman 15!
These 5 things are just the tip of the iceberg! Every day, college students are finding innovative ways to help the environment, from starting environmental sustainability clubs at their school, to starting their own sustainability-focused startup! So, how will you make the world a better place?