Op-ed

The broke college student’s guide to being eco-friendly

Photo: Noah Buscher via Unsplash.

Last week in this column, we broke down the severity of climate change and its intersection with feminism so as to understand just how intertwined the issue of our dying planet is with everything we know and everything we fight for.

What I realized after that, is that it is all good and well to harp on a subject, but it does very little if a plan of action isn’t at least suggested for the people you know are listening, or in this case, reading.

Arguably it is none of our faults that the Earth is dying, so much as it is the fault of the mass industries exploiting the planet for profit with little to no regard for the consequences that are scientifically proven to be staring them dead in the face. However, we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to relieve some of the burden that our environment is currently facing.

We can continue to talk about climate change and just how dangerous it is and point the finger of blame until we are all blue in the face, but if we don’t figure out exactly where we stand and how we can have an impact on this mess, then we’re really not making a great dent in the actual issue at hand.

So that being said, here is the broke college student’s guide to doing what we can to help save the planet.

1) Invest in reusable everything

Often times, people perceive buying items such as reusable bottles, straws, cups and the like as more expensive. This most likely has to do with the fact that you are spending more money up front. For instance, a single use plastic cup from the Starbucks on campus is free, while a reusable cup is #3.

It would appear that you are spending more money than you would by just continuing to use the standard, single use cups, but in many cases, choosing the slightly pricier option up front will end up saving you money in the long run.

Referencing the Starbucks cups again, when bring your reusable cup, you receive 10 cents off your purchase every time. 10 cents might not seem like a big deal, but when you think about how many times you go for coffee throughout the school year, you realize that the money you save will pay off that cup pretty quickly, and then will continue saving you money each time after that.

Thankfully, West Chester University has plenty of opportunities to switch to reusable, and therefore more eco-friendly, options. Lawrence Dining Hall has made the jump from only providing single use to-go boxes to now offering a durable plastic container that can be used over and over again.

An additional way to cut back on economic and environmental waste is to reduce the use of plastic wear. During my freshman year, my roommate and I were constantly going through boxes of plastic forks, spoons, knives and cups. This year, while doing my back to school shopping, I realized that Target was selling nylon cutlery for 99 cents, and reusable plastic bowls, cups and plates for 79 cents each.

Picking up a couple of each ensured that I would no longer be blowing through Earth-damaging material, or my money, as all I have to do now is wash my dishes each time I use them.

2) Be cognitive of your food choices

Don’t you even worry, I’m not here to push veganism. I promise you can still chow down on your cheesesteaks from Grille Works if that’s your thing.

What I am going to push is the awareness of the mark that your food choices make, and how substituting things here and there can make a huge difference. A large amount of the environmental damage done by the average human is caused by our meat consumption, which has globally been on the rise for the last half century.

According to the earthday.org, the manufacturing of the meat products that we consume accounts for approximately 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions which are currently speeding up the process of climate change at a rapid rate, all the while requiring somewhere around 2,000 gallons of water per pound for production.

While we don’t necessarily need to cut meat out of our diets entirely, one person skipping out on meat for one day a week could reduce the amount of damage done equal to not driving your car for over a month. That’s huge.

So while you can totally still hit up Lawrence on Tuesday evenings for Taco Tuesday, maybe make it a point to get the vegetarian option rather than the ground beef. If doing something so small as omitting meat from our meals for a single day per week could save our planet from that much destruction, I think that we all should try our best to make it a habit.

3) Use your voice and utilize your education

This one is a bit more vague, but equally as important nonetheless. Every single person on this campus has been given the immense privilege that is an education. Regardless of anything else in our lives, we are each individually at an advantage by having a great access to knowledge by going to a university.

What is amazing is that we can apply that privilege and knowledge to anything that we choose, including important issues like climate change. With the understanding that we have and the education we have been provided, we can make sure that the conversation about our suffering ecosystems never fades away.

We are the next wave of politicians, leaders, writers, scientists, activists and thinkers, and because of that we are the next wave of change makers. And it’s never too early to start.

Even as young as we are, we still have the potential to make great change, especially given our consciousness of the severity of the situation that we are in.

As college students, we have so many opportunities to make our voices heard with regards to our planet. We can write papers, submit articles, organize clubs, endorse politicians and lead marches to make sure that the world is given our perspective and hears what we have to say.

We are so fortunate to even be getting an education on worldly issues such as these, so we should seize every opportunity to make our world a better place while continuing to learn, grow and strengthen our voices to ensure that once we are the ones in charge, dire needs such as saving our planet will no longer be ignored.

Ali Kochik is a second-year English major minoring in journalism. AK908461@wcupa.edu

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