How to Become More Eco-Friendly Without Drastically Changing Your Life

Being eco-friendly can be a challenge, especially as a college student.

Illustrator: Jade Mulcahy

It is easy to feel discouraged about the fate of the environment, and it is easy to want to take matters into one’s own hands in lieu of a lack of effort by the EPA. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, has done little to create legislation in light of his “back to basics” efforts. He has not accomplished much besides stalling or rolling back legislation. It is difficult to remain positive, but there are many simple things you can do to be more eco-friendly, even if you are in college with limited funds and resources.

One of the easiest ways to be more environmentally friendly is to wash your clothes in cold water. While doing a load of laundry, 90 percent of the energy used goes toward heating the water, whereas only 10 percent is used by the washer motor.

This one is also simple—whenever given the choice to use a straw or not, choose the latter. Straws are non-recyclable, and every day 500 million straws are disposed of by Americans. If you insist on using a straw, try buying a steel one or using bamboo-based straws.

Since it is not realistic to force vegetarianism on anyone, simply being conscious of how much meat you consume will make a difference. The livestock sector produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as all automobiles combined. Try designating one day of your week as meat free and move up from there.

Start using reusable bags instead of plastic ones when you do your shopping. Plastic bags can take anywhere between 15 and a thousand years to decompose, and they often are not recycled. In fact, only 1 percent of plastic bags are. Plastic bags are detrimental to animals—nearly one million birds and thousands of sea animals die each year from consuming discarded plastic bags. To compensate for the one hundred billion bags the U.S. uses each year, it takes 12 million gallons of oil to produce them.

Many children have heard their parents’ favorite phrase: “Turn off the light when you leave the room!” It turns out they’re right. Every little bit of saved energy helps, and it will save you money too.

I saved a tip for the end that should be common sense but still needs to be voiced: Stop littering. I still see people throwing old McDonalds bags out their car windows. It is 2017. Throw your garbage away in the garbage can.