Earth Day, first held in 1970, is a global celebration to raise awareness and demonstrate support for environmental protection. Young adults have played a role in the success of Earth Day since the beginning. Roughly two thousand colleges and universities across the United States participated in the first Earth Day, which is now observed in nearly 200 countries across the world!
Students continue to help make the annual April 22 festivities a success, with most colleges and universities holding official Earth Day events on campus. Whether or not your school is hosting its own environmental awareness festivities, it’s possible to make a difference.
Here are 13 easy ways you can help in 2013:
1. Pick up litter on your way to class. Unfortunately, even the cleanest and greenest college campuses aren’t immune to occasional trash. If you see a candy wrapper, crumpled up flyer or other piece of garbage lying on the sidewalk during your trek to class, take a second to pick it up and toss it into the nearest trash can or recycling bin.
2. BYOB. Water bottle, that is. “Bring your own bottle” is an acronym that most students know and love, but it can be used to describe something besides bringing your own bottles of liquor to college parties. Purchase a refillable water bottle to save money while you save the earth. According to Back2Tap statistics, approximately 140 million plastic water bottles end up in U.S. landfills every day. If you truly don’t like the taste of tap water, try a water filter pitcher or reusable bottle with built-in filter.
3. Switch to reusable coffee mugs. According to Environment Action Association, over half of all Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day. Americans also throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups every year. College students and caffeine go together like peanut butter and jelly, so if you make coffee at home or in your room and take it with you in a reusable mug, you can save a considerable amount of money. If that doesn’t seem feasible, even national coffee shops like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts offer discounts for customers who bring their own refillable mugs that were purchased at that location.
4. Take your own shopping bags to the store. Multiple cities have banned plastic shopping bags and others have started charging a fee for each plastic bag used. Even if the stores in your community allow them, skip the plastic bags and bring your own reusable grocery bags. Just be sure to wash them occasionally, as salmonella or other bacteria can breed in dirty bags that were used to transport meats or other foods.
5. Walk, bike, or carpool. If you live on campus, consider riding your bike or walking to class during daylight hours rather than relying on the busses and shuttles. (Never walk alone in dimly-lit areas after dark!) If you’re going off-campus, hitch a ride with a friend as often as possible.
6. Turn off your computer each night. We are connected, tech-savvy people and many of us leave our computers running 24/7, but the habit should be reconsidered. Energy.gov recommends turning off your computer and monitor if you aren’t planning to use it for more than two hours. If that seems like too much of an inconvenience, put your computer in “sleep” mode so it will consume far less power.
7. Unplug your phone charger when it’s not in use. Realizing that your cell phone battery is dead while you’re out and about is no fun, especially if there’s a good chance that your charger is still plugged into the outlet at home—and this little habit consumes energy and increases your electric bill even if a phone isn’t being charged!
8. Buy used textbooks. College textbooks are beyond expensive. According to Business Insider, research has found that textbook prices have increased over 800% since 1978, more than three times the average increase for other goods and service. Save big on required books and give them a second chance by buying used or borrowing or sharing with a friend.
9. Wear it more than once. Doing laundry isn’t fun, especially when you have to share washers and dryers with fifty other people. If your jeans or sweat pants aren’t dirty or smelly, there’s no harm in wearing them a second or third time. You’ll save water, energy and detergent not to mention your own time.
10. Give it away instead of throw it away. Cleaning out your closet or getting rid of other items that you no longer need or use? Give the unwanted items to friends or donate them to charity rather than toss them into the garbage. Even old cell phones or other outdated electronics can be donated to various causes.
11. Be a vegetarian one day per a week. Meatless Monday, an international campaign to eliminate meat once per week, reports that the practice may help reduce the risk of preventable health problems while reducing your carbon footprint. Statistics show that an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water are needed for just one pound of beef!
12. Use less water. College students who don’t yet pay their own utility bills may not think much about wasting water, but there are more than financial benefits to conserving. Turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth and spend five less minutes in the shower each morning.
13. Pay your bills online. For the bills that you do have, consider going green and switching to online statements rather than paper statements each month. You can eliminate clutter by getting less mail delivered and save even more paper than the statements themselves by paying online rather than writing checks.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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