Freshman year in the dorms means living away from home for probably the first time in your life, having roommates, sharing bathrooms and of course, meal plan. With all this change, tweaking your lifestyle to be more sustainable might be the very last thing on your list.
But it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be!
Even small adjustments in your everyday lifestyle can make a difference.
Before even becoming a sustainability minor, I hated plastic. It’s always been a part of our lives, and I never really liked that. Though we can’t completely avoid it, we can do our best to use less of it while also reducing the tremendous amounts of plastic that make up our landfills.
Everywhere you go on campus, you’ll see it. Plastic water bottles, plastic containers for food, plastic bags, plastic, plastic, plastic. But, guess what? Every single plastic item you’ve ever used is still in the world. That plastic water bottle you threw out yesterday will sit in a landfill for around 450 years. That plastic bag you bought for 10 cents at Vons won’t decompose for up to a thousand years.
Ultimately, plastic waste just takes too long to decompose compared to how much we’re throwing out every day. In 2014, Americans threw out 33.6 million tons of plastic, with only 9.5 percent of that recycled and 15 percent combusted.
We need to stop acting like our waste disappears the second we throw it in the trash bin. Simply Google, “where does plastic go?” and you’ll see exactly where it ends up.
Put simply, by monitoring and reducing your disposable plastic usage, you’ll be making a difference. Invest in a reliable reusable water bottle — they sell them at the bookstore! So you don’t have to continue buying and throwing out the plastic water bottles from the Aztec Markets.
Bring reusable or compostable utensils rather than using plastic ones. Buy a pack of reusable metal straws online, which cost less than 10 dollars, and bring them in your bag for your morning Starbucks run or drink from East Commons. Get some biodegradable toothbrushes made from bamboo, because all of those plastic toothbrushes you’ve thrown out are still sitting in that landfill!
Lastly, purchase a sturdy reusable grocery bag to avoid that pesky 10 cent charge at the grocery store and all of those wasteful plastic bags on campus. Reducing your plastic usage might cost a bit more up-front, but will ultimately save the environment and your money — I mean, just think about how much you spend every week on all those plastic bags or plastic water bottles.
There are easy ways to help out the environment on an individual level simply by monitoring your consumption and cutting back on buying and disposing of so much plastic. With all the upcoming changes in your life, why not make one more to help make the world a more sustainable place?