What can I do for the environment? This is a common question many students have as they consider ways to increase campus or personal sustainability. When we ask this question, we’re often met with answers such as “recycle” or “don’t use plastic,” but some of these solutions are easier said than done, and others are preached but not practiced. Here are some of the best ecofriendly schools and ideas for students wanting to implement creative yet useful techniques to promote sustainability on campus.
A look at sustainable colleges
Depending on whether you’re into environmental activism and sustainability as a whole, attending a university known for its acts of service toward the environment could help you narrow down schools you’d be happy to attend. Colleges known for sustainability include:
- Arizona State University–Tempe: ASU Tempe is known for initiating a tree-planting program to diminish carbon emissions. The Carbon Project also transitioned from using traditional gas cars to electric and promoted the use of carpooling to different university departments nationwide.
- University of California, Irvine: This well-known UC campus is gaining traction for ecofriendly initiatives due to its water conservation. The University implemented a system that allows wastewater to be converted and reused to cool 65 buildings, resulting in the preservation of 80 million gallons of drinkable water.
- Colorado State University: To be more ecofriendly, CSU enacted a Food Recovery Program in which they notify staff, students, and faculty whenever there are leftovers after an event. This minimizes food waste and provides healthy food to those who may not be able to afford it.
Colleges like the ones listed above ingrain sustainably in the campus environment, but students who attend other schools and want to be more environmentally friendly can still do so on their own terms.
Related: The Top 5 Most Sustainable Universities in the World
Top 5 ways to go green on campus
Being green and sustainable in colleges comes down to your personal initiatives—the things you do daily to live a more sustainable life. Here are some easy ecofriendly initiatives to incorporate into your daily routine while in college.
1. Reduce your paper waste
Trash generated by businesses with heavy paper usage harms our ecosystem, and when it comes to paper waste, schools rank among the worst offenders. This includes papers used for exams, course materials, and syllabi. Speak with your administration about various paper-saving measures, such as using online course materials or digitizing library resources. Air pollution is lowered by going digital, and our planet is greatly protected when you choose to save and share your files digitally (either online or on your hard drive) rather than on paper. This also includes typing notes on a tablet or computer rather than a writing in a notebook.
2. Shop at thrift stores and reduce fast fashion consumption
The best method to maintain your sense of style while helping the environment (and your wallet!) is to purchase secondhand clothing. Most of our clothing is manufactured abroad, which increases the planet’s overall carbon footprint since producing new clothing uses a lot of energy and resources, including water. By purchasing pre-owned clothing from a thrift shop, you’ll help avoid using so many unnecessary resources. You can also minimize your consumption of fast fashion. Instead of continuously purchasing poorly constructed clothing that’ll become rags in less than a year, save your money for a few higher-quality pieces that will last. The long-term financial savings from this method will show, and our environment will benefit.
Related: 5 Ways Everyone Can Fight for the Environment
3. Donate your clothes
As you continue to buy from thrift stores, you can donate to them too. Clothes that are just sitting in your closet collecting dust can benefit those in need. If you want to make a little extra cash, you can sell your clothes too. Sites such as Depop, Poshmark, and online thrift store thredUP can be used to make a profit while also being ecofriendly.
4. Start composting
By composting on campus, colleges may reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators while also assisting students in understanding ideas like decomposition and energy cycles. If your campus doesn’t have a composting program, try to start one. The least you can do is start composting in your own dorm—just be sure to have a conversation with your roommate first.
5. Engage in other ecofriendly initiatives on campus
There are a ton of ways to be ecofriendly on campus, but you have to be willing to seek them out. Here are a few opportunities to consider.
- Join a club: Student groups can be effective in spreading environmental awareness. Joining a nature club can expose you to these important matters in a fun and social way. Many of these clubs have a beach day that entails getting students outside for a river or beach cleanup or other similar projects. If your school doesn’t have this type of club, you can start one and hold such events.
- Take environment-focused classes: If you think it would be useful to your future career or you're just interested in the environment, taking courses related to sustainability might be for you! Schools nationwide and even worldwide offer classes that educate students on sustainability and environmental matters, and knowledge gained in these courses can be used to promote going green on campus.
- Host events: Hosting events to raise awareness or money and promote being green brings light to issues and helps support organizations doing the work. Events such as a tree planting day or a field trip to a local wetland, wildlife sanctuary, or nature preserve can be helpful and fun for those just getting introduced to sustainability.
Related: 10 Colleges That Went Green Before It Was Cool
Overall, there are many methods to make your campus and daily life more environmentally friendly. All you need is to do your part and put in the effort. The biggest task is ensuring that sustainability is top-of-mind for everyone. You’ll contribute positively to making your college campus more sustainable by implementing these concepts.
Use our College Search tool to learn more about sustainable colleges and find a campus that shares your passion for the environment.