As a college student, the thought of taking on any new responsibilities is definitely daunting, but the harmful effects of our actions on the environment simply can’t be ignored any longer. So, here are a few easy ways to limit your consumption and lower your environmental impact on the planet, without adding too much stress to your daily life!
Don’t get me wrong, I love long showers just as much as the next person – there’s nothing like taking a long hot shower to simply sort your thoughts out and relax. However, it can be incredibly wasteful to take thirty-minute showers. Less than 3 percent of all of Earth’s water is usable, and many people take that water for granted. A few countries such as South Africa have recently had water crises, and the water situation is growingly increasingly dire. Several parts of the U.S. have been hit by drought recently as well. The ideal shower length, depending on your showerhead, is from five to twelve minutes. That may sound crazy short, but with practice, you can get pretty good at making the most out of the time. Besides, it’s better to cut back willingly now than to not have the option to do so later.
This one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since there’s been a lot of coverage on the topic lately – specifically around straws. However, simply cutting out plastic straws isn’t enough, as straws only make up about 4 percent of plastic trash by piece: Every year, 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags. Most stores have started to sell reusable bags inside, and you can also always find one online. Sure, the idea of paying $10 or $15 for a bag, a reusable cup or a straw may seem annoying since you can find plastic options for free at most establishments. However considering the impact plastic has on wildlife, it’s definitely a small price to pay.3. Limit yourself to public transit and walking only
Most Northwestern students already do this simply because bringing a car to campus is a hassle, but a good number of students still use Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing apps. While carpooling is definitely better than simply driving on your own – last year UberPool saved cities about 82,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – it is still contributing to carbon monoxide pollution. Most places in Evanston are easy to travel to simply by walking, and while it may take longer than by car, it’s ultimately better for the environment and also your own health! For the places that aren’t in walking distance, public transit is always an option, especially because Chicago has a pretty expansive system that you can take advantage of. Also, obviously buses still contribute to pollution but one bus can transport hundreds of people a day. CTA is easy, environmentally efficient and worth the minor frustration!4. Lower your meat consumption
While it’s great to commit to being fully vegetarian or vegan, the good news for meat-lovers out there is that it's not completely necessary if you’re looking to lower your environmental impact. The meat industry is much more damaging to the environment than most realize: Animal agriculture and their byproducts contribute to 51 percent of global greenhouse emissions. That being said, there’s no need to go cold ~turkey~ and try to make such a huge lifestyle change overnight. Instead, you can start slow. Meatless Mondays are an excellent way to start, or you can even start by simply limiting yourself to eating meat only once a day. There are also plenty of meat substitutes and lots of meatless places to try. Even the dining halls at Northwestern have a few vegetarian options.5. Try composting!
Americans waste around 150,000 tons of food a day, which is crazy to consider.That milk you forgot about? Those bananas that you were hesitant to eat because they were a little too brown? All of that contributes to the massive amount of waste that is produced every day. One easy way to do that is by starting your own compost bin. Since that isn't a feasible option for most college students, another way to lower your amount of food waste is by visiting establishments that compost their leftover food. For starters, Northwestern’s dining halls compost, so you’re already well on your way.