The transition to college is a time of fundamental growth. College allows us the opportunity to fully live our values, act on our beliefs, and further develop our identities. We become more self-reliant, responsible, and independent.
Practice Being Sustainable
If environmental responsibility is one of your core values, college is a perfect time to live those values. You don’t have to major in environmental studies to develop sustainable habits. You can find other ways to practice sustainability: join a campus garden, start a zero-waste project, or become a part of a student environmental group. Read on to learn more about how you can save energy in your dorm, contribute to your college’s sustainability initiatives, and continue your new habits through college and beyond.
To save energy in your dorm, apartment, or house, follow these tips:
- Only use lights when you need them.
- Keep your showers short! Water takes a lot of energy to heat.
- Keep your windows and doors closed.
- Close your blinds or curtains on cool nights to avoid heat loss through windows.
- Make the most of shared refrigerators and avoid mini-fridges.
- Use the cool setting on your washing machine.
- Adjust the thermostat. For example, in winter: setting to 70 can use 10% more energy than 68.
- Unplug chargers and other appliances when not in use.
Practice Environmentally-Friendly Habits in Your Dorm Room
Consider a work-study opportunity focused on sustainability. From helping your college’s recycling crew to getting your hands dirty in a campus garden, there are a variety of ways to be involved. Are you interested in the arts? You could use your graphic design skills to help make posters that teach others about initiatives on campus. Interested in engineering? Propose an independent study that would allow you to learn more about renewable energy projects on campus. Student-run groups can lobby for change, student thrift stores can help reduce textile waste, and local foods programs can support small farmers while reducing transportation emissions. No matter your skill set, you can find a way to become involved in sustainability projects at college.
Talk to Your College Reps
When talking with admissions counselors or touring a campus, ask questions about the college’s commitment to the environment. Do they have a recycling program? What about a composting program? Are there initiatives such as a student farm or garden? Does the college have a sustainability office, a student-run environmental group, or a formal climate commitment?
According to the Princeton Review, “college applicants and their parents are increasingly concerned about the environment and sustainability issues. Among nearly 11,000 teens and parents the Princeton Review surveyed earlier this year for its 2018 "College Hopes & Worries Survey," 63 percent overall said having information about a college's commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school.” You can learn more about some of the schools highlighted in the Princeton Review’s 2018 Guide to Green Colleges.
Daily Habits to Help Change the World
Your commitment to the environment will hopefully stretch far beyond your time at college. A lifetime of sustainability could start with the habits that you make over the next four years. Here are some additional habits to get into at college:
- Think about what you are throwing away. Try not to use single-use containers such as styrofoam containers, plastic bags, water bottles, or disposable coffee cups. These objects are often impossible to recycle. When you can, invest in long-lasting alternatives like a simple cloth shopping bag and a stainless steel mug. Many schools offer discounts in their cafes for bringing your own mug!
- Be conscientious of your transportation habits. Do you live close enough to campus to commute without a car? Would it be possible for you to take the bus or carpool into town? Giving up your car at college not only helps the planet but it helps your pocketbook and your health, too! Many colleges offer shuttle services, buses, ride sharing programs, and even electric scooters. Explore your options!
- Spend time outside. Colleges are often situated in beautiful natural spaces. Take some time to enjoy the natural areas around your campus. Being in nature is a calming break from the hectic schedule of college.
Whether you choose to practice a few sustainable habits in your dorm room or you commit to a career in sustainability, college is the perfect time to practice your environmentalism. Get started today! A new generation of students can transform the way our society thinks about sustainability.