By Vanessa Xu
In college, we put a lot of priorities in front of being environmentally conscious. Sure, it may seem more convenient to use plastic utensils, disposable water bottles and plastic bags, but is it that difficult to change up a few small actions that undoubtedly create a huge impact on the environment?
Here are a few small changes you can make in college in order to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle — and not take up a ton of time:
1) What is recyclable and what isn’t?
To be honest, it was difficult for me at first to distinguish what is recyclable and what isn’t. Knowing this simple concept makes the biggest difference. Cans, bottles (without plastic caps), glass, paper, cardboard and batteries are all recyclable. Keep in mind that anything that is stained with food or other products is not recyclable unless it can be washed. Check out [email protected]’s “What Can I Recycle” article for a more detailed breakdown.
2) What really are those separate categories in the dining hall?
The different colored bins, also known as the compost station in the GSU, can be confusing. Many students, including myself, tend to end up throwing random sorts of trash in the wrong categories.
Essentially, there are three different categories that include: recycling, landfill and compostables. First, I recommend starting out with the recycling bin. Is anything you are holding recyclable, but not contaminated with food? If yes, that is what the recycling bin is for. Second is compost. Is there leftover food or paper in your hands? If yes, that can be placed as compost, which is biodegradable. And don’t forget, a lot of BU’s utensils, cups and plates are marked as compostable — so keep an eye out! Last, and honestly least, is landfill. This category is your last resort. “If you must, you must.” This contains trash that is not recyclable or compostable, which includes products like wrappers, chip bags or sauce packets.
3) To take to go or not to go?
I cannot stress enough how many times I have seen people use to-go boxes but end up sitting in the dining area anyway. There are many other options other than using to-go boxes that are not reusable and environmentally unfriendly. Bringing your own tupperware or eating with the dining dishes are not only better for the environment, but they also hold more food!
4) Washing dishes can’t be that hard, can it?
I know, disposable paper plates and plastic utensils are easy and convenient, but it also requires you to have to take out the trash way too often. Not only is it extremely wasteful, it is also very unnecessary. Having your own set of dishes saves money and makes food taste more pleasant. Sure you will have to go wash your own dishes, but in the end, it’s all worth it. And for the love of God, don’t use styrofoam.
5) You sure you don’t want a bag with that?
Plastic bags are one of the most highly wasteful products. They don’t fully breakdown, easily enter the ocean and are often unnecessary. Most grocery stores will hand out extensive amounts of plastic bags that are just not needed (although, shoutout to Cambridge for banning plastic bags entirely in 2016). Bringing your own cloth bag is an easy way to live a more sustainably friendly life while securing your groceries from falling out of plastic bags and collecting endlessly in your dorm room.
These are some simple college tips to live a more sustainable lifestyle. We tend to forget about how many resources we use per day and how it all adds up to be extremely wasteful. It is important to keep this in mind in order to lower each and every one of our carbon footprints.