Environmental Sustainability for College Students

About the AuthorJennifer Biederman has a PhD in Conservation Biology and a Master’s Degree in Education. For 8 years, she has been instructing full-time at a university, while also teaching a college-level course that introduces students to various study skills. 

College is an exciting time to explore new possibilities - and the ideal opportunity to make eco-friendly lifestyle choices that reduce your impact on the planet. Whether you live in the dorm or in an off-campus apartment, take a bit of time to educate yourself on ways you can adopt planet-healthy habits during your time as a college student.

Understand your footprint

Before you can truly make an impact by living a more sustainable lifestyle, it's essential to understand how your current lifestyle choices affect the planet. Knowing your "ecological footprint," which is simply the measure of how much of the earth's resources or land area your lifestyle consumes, gives you a powerful starting point in making more meaningful sustainable choices. Below are resources to determine and reduce your ecological footprint.

Ecological footprint 101 : Did you know that the current global human population uses resources at a rate that would require 1.5 planets in order to be sustainable? In addition to interesting facts about human sustainability, this site is a great primer for gaining a better understanding the concept of the ecological footprint.

Calculate your footprint: This interactive quiz from a leading global non-profit organization in promoting sustainable lifestyles will help you measure your own ecological footprint. Plus, once you view your results, you'll get helpful tips in how change your lifestyle for a smaller impact on the planet.


Green your dorm routine

The greatest part of about living in a college dormitory? Although you're in tight quarters with a roommate or two, this type of housing has a smaller footprint that you may realize. The typical dormitory packs in more people per square footage that most other housing arrangements, allowing for more efficient and ecofriendly use of space and energy resources.

Still, you may decide that you want step up your approach to sustainability once you arrive on campus. Here are helpful resources with easy ways to green your lifestyle in the college dorm.

A sustainable shopping list: Before you arrive on campus, chances are that you'll spend a fair amount of time shopping for all of your dorm room essentials. This is an important time to make sustainable choices - and this resource offers a complete back to school shopping list for a green dorm room.  

Daily living tips: From unplugging your electronics when not in use to restricting your laundry to complete loads, there are countless ways for college students to make sustainable lifestyle choices when living in the dorm. This site offers a great checklist of smart, eco-friendly habits to adopt when you arrive on campus.

Saving energy 101: Energy consumption is one of the biggest impacts that the typical college student has on the planet. But curbing energy use during college is as easy as using the right kind of light bulbs or turning off your computer screen. Take a look at this list for the top 10 ways to save energy on campus. 

Curb your consumption: As a college student, it's easy to get caught up in the latest trends when it comes to the latest fashion and technology. Not only is there little extra room in the typical dorm for a lot of excess stuff, but over-the-top consumption also has a devastating effect on the planet. These movies from the Story of Stuff movement are the ideal place to learn more about the importance of curbing your consumption as a college student.


Adopt an eco-friendly diet

Whether you eat in the cafeteria or prepare your own meals, the foods you consume can have a big impact on the planet. From choosing more planet-friendly brands to curbing your consumption of meat, reducing the footprint of your daily food consumption is a powerful way to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are terrific resources for getting started.

Green your diet: Changing your eating patterns to embrace more eco-friendly foods is no easy task - especially as you adjust to life as a college student. This how-to guide from Harvard is the perfect place to start when it comes to making more sustainable diet choices as a college student. Along with advice that includes eating more planets and finding local foods, you'll also find helpful links with more tips on eating green.

Take from the tap: To reduce your footprint on the planet, make it a routine to fill a reusable water bottle straight from the tap. Not only does buying bottled water take a big bite out a college student's budget, it also contributes to the pile-up of unnecessary plastic waste and needless use of fossil fuels and energy. Learn more facts about bottled water - and smart tips for more eco-friendly water consumption at this site from the University of Maryland.

Reconsider red meat: No matter how delicious, that juicy red steak and your favorite hamburger have a proportionally bigger impact on the planet than herbivorous alternatives, like veggies and grains. But there's no reason to quit meat altogether; just reducing your red meat consumption by a meal or two per week can have a measurable impact on sustainability. Read more about the environmental impact of red meat, here.


Embrace ecofriendly transportation

With the high cost of gas prices and maintaining a car, there are plenty of good reasons to adopt smarter transportation habits during college. But embracing the use of bicycles, walking, and public transportation during college is also a powerful way to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are essential resources for adopting more ecofriendly methods of transportation.

Tips to get started: As a new college student, you may be entirely unfamiliar with green transportation options - especially if you're used to driving your own personal vehicle. Although every college or university will offer a slightly different set of options when it comes to sustainable transit, this resource will give you a good idea about what green community options are usually available on the typical campus.

Maintain your bike: A bicycle is the most affordable, efficient and ecofriendly ways to commute to and from campus. But in order to make this a dependable mode of transport, it's essential to keep your bike in tip-top shape. Learn more about how to maintain your bicycle, here.

Ride safe: One reason that many college students avoid transportation is the perceived risk or lack of safety. But with smart habits, like sharing a cab and looking for brightly lit bus stops, using public transportation can be a safe and sustainable way to get around during college. This resource offers some easy ways to stay safe during your commute.


Sustainable lifestyle habits that stick

As a college student, you're in the ideal time of your life to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. From curbing your consumption to eating more planet-friendly foods, there are countless ways that you can reduce your impact on the earth during your time on campus. With these resources, you can arm yourself with information and advice you need to become a more sustainable college student.

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