Frustrated that the Amazon is burning and you can’t do anything about it? Well, if you’ve got some money to spare or an influential social media presence, you may be able to help. But in all honesty, you and I can’t influence policy overnight (we can, long-term) and save a thousand-acre forest from burning. We can raise awareness, but that isn’t really “helping.”
But, there are some small things you and I can do every day that can make a big difference on our planet. The title says “college students” because right now, I fall into this cohort. Most of us don’t have money floating around and have a lot on our hands – studies, jobs, responsibilities, adulting, memes, and everything else that take our time. So how can we be of help and take action that really contributes to reducing our individual environmental impact without spending too much or going out of our way too much? Here are some ways:
1. Instead of water packs, get a water filter
What do you do when you buy these water bottle packs? You take them home, use about two of these packs a week (if you drink enough water). So that’s 48 bottles you’ve used for a week and let us be honest – we throw them away when we are done. But there’s a better option. You can put some money into purchasing a water filter which is available for $15 on Amazon (or less). If you have a plastic reusable bottle, you can get water into the purifier using your kitchen tap and fill up your reusable bottle. Simple as that! If you used 24 plastic water bottles per week, you saved the environment from receiving 1,152 plastic containers. What a significant change!
2. Reduce accumulating plastic bags by using reusable tote bags
Look, I know it’s absurd to think we will ever be able to turn-away plastic bags at grocery stores. I bring them home myself. You can’t simply carry so much stuff in both of your hands. You need bags! But, you can reduce it. You can invest in reusable tote bags for less than $20 bucks! You can also not take plastic bags for things that don’t need them, like toilet paper and other products that are already wrapped in plastic. If you reduce the amount of plastic bags you bring home from your grocery store because some of the items fit inside your tote bags, that is a big win for the environment. Also, stop accepting plastic bags for everything – those two pencils you had to buy in a hurry really don’t need an entire bag for you to carry.
3. Reduce using paper towels by using kitchen towels
I use paper towels. I’m not saying get rid of it completely. This article is supposed to be practical, not superficial. But, I also have kitchen towels that I have bought that help me reduce using paper towels. If it’s just drying clean wet hands, we don’t really need reels of paper towels. We can use a kitchen towel and wipe our hands. Try and use them for 2-3 days and if you buy a set (<$8) you will be completely fine for a week. You will also save a lot of money because paper towels aren’t necessarily cheap. So, thank you.
4. Reduce mail coming to your apartment by signing up for e-bills and e-statements
I’m a big fan of writing letters (especially to people who have been such a big help to you). But if they’re on Facebook, send them a message or give them a call. Reduce writing mail. (Remember: reduce. Not getting rid of it). But something you’d really want to do is signing up for e-bills. I’m pretty sure we all receive bills – let it be for bank, electricity, wifi, gas, HVAC, water, insurance, and so on. Please take a couple of minutes and update your accounts to get your billing statements electronically via email. This will totally give you a lot of calm headspaces because everything you want is in your email inbox and you don’t have to go searching for a lost piece of paper and also you will not be the recipient of thousands of paper stock each year. You can also specifically look at all the junk mail you get and unsubscribe from them, so you don’t receive them anymore. Win for the environment!
We need a lot of “action” to keep our environment healthy. But drastic changes overnight with our schedules (especially in College) is hard. I’ve taken these four steps and I think it will help you a lot as well. Cheap, small, and sustainable ways we can do our part. Collectively, it will make a big impact.
If you’re open to reading more aggressive ways you can take action, here’s a pretty neat article you can read.