By now, I hope everyone knows to turn off the light when you leave a room. That’s Rule #1 of Sustainability 101. But there are tons of other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and they don’t have to be huge life-changing decisions. So whether you’re an old pro looking for tips or a freshman hoping to start off right, CM’s got some advice to help you go green and stay green on your campus.
Let your Hair Air Dry
This saves both electricity and effort. Why spend an hour doing something that Mother Nature can do for you? Forgo the hairdryer and let those locks dry on their own. The windswept look is in, too, so don’t be afraid to let your usually prim-and-proper locks take a day off.
Use a Manual Toothbrush
Again, why use electricity when you don’t have to? Your arm works just as well as that little battery-powered motor spinning away, so put your muscles to good use. While it’ll technically only save you around $3 per year, energy is energy, and the Earth will notice.
Unplug Unused Electronics
Even when your TV is turned off, it still can idly suck up energy. Unplug it when you’re not watching it. But don’t stop there—if you’re not in your room, your fan doesn’t need to be on, either. Unplug it. Unplug your idle chargers and your computer. Unplug it all—just not your fridge—and you could decrease your energy consumption by up to 10 percent. Your bill and your environment will thank you.
Get a Reusable Water Bottle
Bottled water isn’t only bad for the environment—it’s way more expensive. Tap water is basically free, so take advantage; you’ll benefit the environment and your wallet. “News flash, reusable bottles are cool. Stop trying to make plastic happen,” University of Maryland Sustainability Council student subcommittee chair Samantha Bingaman said.
Use Energy Star Appliances
Speaking of fridges: Since you can’t unplug it or turn it off, you just have to deal with it, right? Nope. Even mini-fridges can come with Energy Star labels, so the least efficient item in your room can be pretty darn green—about 20 percent more efficient than a standard model. So fridge on, friends. Fridge on.
Change the Way you Wash
“When doing laundry, wash your clothes on the ‘cold’ or ‘brights’ setting. It’s just as effective as using hot water, I promise,” said Laura Berry, chair of the Campus Committee for Sustainability at the College of the Atlantic, one of the greenest schools in the country. Berry said you’ll save a significant amount of energy and reduce carbon emissions as 90 percent of the electricity used by washers is for heating the water. “Plus line-drying one load of laundry per week rather than an electric dryer saves 4.7 pounds of carbon emissions each time,” Berry said.
Not only is it more exciting than regular shopping, but it’s cheaper and better for the environment. Buying from thrift stores gives an automatic second life to someone else’s stuff (think: reuse) and also keeps you from buying something new (think: reduce). Plus your sustainable lifestyle might just earn you some new friends. “Farmers’ markets, co-ops and thrift shops are great places to not only buy the things you need but to make connections with members of your community,” Berry said.
Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose
Don’t take anything at face value. Got a bunch of extra cardboard from move-in? Paint it and make a cute corkboard. Ugly hand-me-down pillows? Cover them with a new, fun fabric. “Recycle old items or packaging into new decorations for your room. I made a rug out of old t-shirts,” Bingaman said. A little creativity can go a long way. And earning your green thumb is an added bonus.
Cut Out Red Meat
Changing your diet is a big deal, but it could be one of the most important decisions you make on behalf of your carbon footprint. “You think about turning off lights and unplugging appliances, but that’s nothing compared to the impact of a single hamburger,” UMD Office of Sustainability Senior Project Manager Mark Stewart said. Basically, the bigger the animal, the more resources it takes to raise it. Vegetarianism is ideal, but swapping that hamburger out for a chicken sandwich is totally doable.