When you first think about sustainability, a few questions might come to mind: Isn’t that a thing for hippies? Aren’t there a bunch of rules? What actually is sustainability?
Practicing sustainability while you’re away at college can look a bit different than when you’re at home; it’s a lot easier and resources are more accessible than you’d think. At Florida State University, for example, Sustainable Campus has recycling bins spread throughout campus, they host move-out donation drives to recycle dorm essentials, and even maintain an on-campus organic garden.
But let’s rewind, what exactly is sustainability?
The practice of sustainability is lessening our environmental impacts with the hope of avoiding the depletion of Earth’s natural and nonrenewable resources. In action, this looks like people modifying their everyday tasks to better protect and help the environment. While Sustainable Campus organizes a bunch of initiatives campus-wide, there is still a lot you can do individually. Once you have a few ideas, sustainable habits are easy to put into practice.
Use alternate methods of transportation! If you live close to campus or your job, try riding a bike, walking, or riding the bus. If you don’t have a bike of your own, Sustainable Campus has a bike rental program that operates on a semester-by-semester basis and is super affordable.
Getting produce from local farmers and buying from small businesses supports the people in your community, and requires less overall transportation than buying from large grocers that import their inventory. Not everything you’ll need for your pantry is local to Florida, but checking out local farmers markets first is a good place to start. Also, a lot of large grocers have signs that indicate locally grown or made foods on their aisles. Some local farmers markets you can visit include:
- Lake Ella Growers’ Market
- Downtown Market Tallahassee
- Farmer’s Market
Reduce water usage.
Throughout our homes, the amount of water waste is a lot more than we probably realize: showers, bathtubs, sinks, washing machines, dishwashers, and general plumbing are all areas throughout your home that use water. It’s impossible to avoid using water, but being smart about how you use it can make a difference. For example, try taking shorter showers, brush your teeth without the water on, and use a dishwasher instead of washing by hand.
Reduce paper waste.
As college students, this can be a little harder to do since a lot of the work we get done is on notebook or printer paper. However, some alternatives can include using fewer paper towels, printing only the necessities, renting or purchasing electronic versions of your textbooks, utilizing the paper recycling containers across campus, and bringing your own bags to the grocery store instead of asking for paper or plastic ones.
Use eco-friendly products.
Eco-friendly products aren’t expensive and are surprisingly really easy to find! A lot of sustainable products are available at major retailers now, but if you’re looking to save, cheaper versions are available online. Some examples include fabric grocery bags, metal or bamboo utensils, glass storage containers, stainless steel water bottles, mesh produce bags, wooden matches, and others. There are also lots of household cleaners that are environmentally-friendly, but look up which brands you are interested in before you purchase to avoid greenwashed products — AKA, fake eco-friendly products.
Shop secondhand when you can.
Before you shop new, check out thrift stores to see if they have something similar to what you’re looking for. Local thrift stores like Goodwill and online thrift stores like ThreadUp and Poshmark are usually fully stocked with clothes, home decor, and furniture. Sifting through all of the items can feel like a treasure hunt and it’s always a win when you find gently used, one-of-a-kind items for your wardrobe and home. Near campus you can find:
- Goodwill on Pensacola
- What Do Ya Got? on W Brevard
- Community Thrift Market on Capital Circle
For more ideas about how to be sustainable in college, check out all of the resources available on the Sustainable Campus website.