This Semester GREEN is in Season

by V.Gennaro

The back-to-school rush has begun!  As you finalize your list for the upcoming semester and prepare to deck your dorm room in school-colors – consider adding a little green to the mix. 

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Over the last century, humans have played a large role in the changes to the earth’s climate.  Nowadays we’re witnessing the effects of a warming planet – glacial melts, wildfires, droughts, storm surges, ocean acidification, rising sea levels – which drastically threaten agriculture, air quality, health trends, land habitability, and wildlife survival. 

America is the second largest contributor to carbon dioxide (a principal greenhouse gas) in the world.  Implementing eco-practices into your individual routine and supporting businesses that put the environment first makes a huge difference.  College is a great place to start becoming involved in environmentalism – this fall seek eco-aware opportunities and integrate green practices into your life.

 

DORM-DOS:

Did you know that the annual energy use of one standard dormitory room can generate greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to the tailpipe emissions of a car driven over 150,000 miles?  If just 1 in 10 students adopted energy-saving practices, millions of pounds of carbon dioxide pollution could be prevented. Here are some techniques to implement into your new eco-friendly dorm lifestyle.

Stop with the single-use, already

Don’t be that guy - you know, the one that heads to school with a truck-load of plastic water bottles.  Add a reusable water bottle to your list of school necessities.  While you’re at it, invest in reusable straws and a travel utensil pack so that your take-out nights aren’t marred by the knowledge that you’re creating a mound of plastic trash with each binge.  We even offer these products in our shop, so stock-up before school starts!

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In the U.S., every second of every day 1,500 plastic bottles are discarded. Americans send more than 38 billion water bottles to landfills every year

An enlightened student lights efficiently

Switch those bulbs to LED! LEDs are 85% more efficient than incandescent lights and last significantly longer (psst: holiday classic string-lights come in LEDs too!).  Also, be aware of the lights you have on – turn off lamps and lights whenever you leave the room.

Hot and Cold doesn’t work with people or places

The biggest culprit in terms of dorm power usage: air-conditioning.  If your room has an individual temperature control, set it few degrees higher to cut back on energy expended by the cooling system.  Keeping blinds or curtains closed will block warming rays, which will help maintain room temperature.  Report broken windows and cracks to maintenance – and don’t leave a window open when a heating/cooling system is running.

Take time to Unplug

Appliances (computer, microwave, TV, chargers) continue to draw power from electrical outlets even when off or idle.  Unplug those devices when you’re not in the room!  A power strip or surge protector can make this easier – plug your appliances/devices in, and then conserve energy with one switch.

You’re on Energy-saving Mode – your screens can be too

Televisions, desktop computers, laptops, etc should all have an energy-saving feature called Automatic Brightness Control.  It automatically adjusts the picture brightness level to the amount of light in the room.  You can also program your computer to go into a low-power standby mode when you’re taking a break.  If you’re in the market for new appliances – check for Energy Star certifications (applies to printers, microwaves, printers as well!).

Keep your H2O use low

Laundry machines and dishwashers should only be run with a full-load.  As an added eco-approach, wash clothes in cold water and use a drying rack instead of electric dryer.  Adjusting your daily water routine helps as well – shorten showers and don’t leave the faucet running!

Switch gears, and choose Eco-transportation

Avoid cars when you can.  Choose public transportation – like campus buses - or bike and walk to your destination.

 

BRING THE MOVEMENT TO YOUR SCHOOL!

While personal lifestyle adjustments have an important impact, engaging your student community to transform the practices of your school can make BIG change!  Start or join an environmental group on campus and advocate for new school-wide eco-platforms.  Here’s a few we hope you all push for your school to implement.

Recycling, Composting, and Food Sourcing

While recycling is becoming more commonplace, composting is still a rarity.  An NRDC study found that about 40% of food is wasted in the U.S.  Food waste is typically placed in landfills, where the food rots and consequentially creates greenhouse gas emissions.  One gas emitted by rotting food is methane, which traps 80X more heat than carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (yikes!).  Advocate for your school to implement an on-campus compost system.  Composting = less food waste, and it can be added to soil to help vegetation grow.  Perfect for school agriculture programs!

Want your school to go the extra mile with sustainable food practices?  Encourage cafeteria partnerships with local farmers and push for them to integrate organic produce.  Request more vegan and vegetarian options – this will help make meatless meals a more attractive option!

Transportation

The transport sector is responsible for over 1/4 the greenhouse emissions in the U.S.  A good public transportation system reduces the need for single-passenger car use.  Better yet, push for your college to introduce electric bus fleets to further eliminate emissions. 

Looking for a smaller step?  See if more bike racks or a bike-share program can be added on campus.  This will encourage students to try an eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Water Refill Stations

Very few plastic water bottles make it to the recycling bin, most end up in our environment where they damage local ecosystems.  Introducing filtered water stations throughout campus helps incentivize students to use reusable water bottles. 

Housing

Some colleges have housing dedicated to sustainability and green living.  Introducing rain barrels, solar panels, and passive lighting can reduce school-wide environmental impacts.  Green buildings can earn an LEED rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) that help distinguish schools serious about the environment.

Energy Supply

Where does your college get its electricity? Ask questions and advocate for supplementing electricity through solar power, wind power, or even water power.

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Eighteen percent of all electricity in the U.S. was produced by renewable sources in 2017, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams.

Unsustainable School Swag

Most of the products/swag offered in campus stores and distributed at the beginning of the semester are NOT sustainably made.  Clothes are made from synthetics (plastic fibers!) or with non-organic materials.  Reminder!  Organic cotton = low-impact, no pesticides, ~90% less water, ~60% less energy (read more).  Get organic, sustainable products in your campus store – and encourage your college to partner with eco-friendly manufacturers when they print school products!

 

Want to do more?

Think about pursuing a degree in one of the environmental sciences or including some sustainable electives into your coursework!

Victoria GennaroComment