Sustainable switches are easier than you think

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Tom Price | The Daily Wildcat

Sarah Bertram and Lia Ossanna collect trash and recycling from Spring Fling on April 10, 2016. On Feb. 23, Students from Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University will meet with UA students in the Student Union Memorial Center to discuss sustainability and share ideas 

Most of us have at least some understanding that as humans we are invested in the planet. Whether we are mindful of this, guiltily trying not to think about it or completely oblivious to the world around us, we all leave an impact on the Earth. It can be intimidating to look at our own deep carbon footprint and the plethora of information on climate change and see a way that we can make any meaningful change on what, by all accounts, looks like a situation that is beyond repair. 

Fear not, Wildcats. There are many ways to bring sustainability into your lives as part of a college community. It doesn’t have to cost you thousands, you don’t need to put all your loan money into an electric car, or go completely waste-free (although, it has been done by college students.) 

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I’ve worked at the Office of Sustainability for over a year now, and when I walked into my interview I had very little first-hand experience living a green life. I ate like garbage for many years, didn’t thinking twice about food packaging and rarely recycled. This was never out of a lack of empathy for the planet, I just didn’t feel like I had the time to commit to being sustainable. Sorting trash for recyclables and compost at UA football and basketball games changed everything for me. If I can find the time and aptitude for a greener life, then anyone can. 

Here’s some easy, low-cost sustainable practices you can incorporate into your life. 

1.Opt for reusable bags

If not in your dorm room, you have seen a drawer in someone’s house overflowing with plastic grocery bags. These seemingly small pieces of plastic add up, and let’s face it, you don’t have space for a collection of them. Buy a few reusable bags to take on your grocery shopping trips. Some are cute and collapsable, they’re inexpensive and you can buy them just about anywhere, like for less than $1 on Amazon.

2. Turn off your power

You have things in your room plugged in, things that you simply never unplug because you switched the off button on the television. Even if you aren’t using your TV or computer, leaving it plugged in is a power suck. The best solution is to purchase a few surge protectors and just switch them off before you leave the house. 

3. Walk and bike more

This one is a no brainer on UA’s campus where there are great bike paths, scenic ways to stroll, ample bike racks and a staffed bike valet. Not only is commuting by bike, bus, streetcar or your own feet good for the environment, it’s good for you. It will also save you money on meters or parking passes. 

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4. Eat less meat

Even if you reduce your meat consumption to six days a week instead of the full seven you could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by raising livestock. Eating less meat could also have major health benefits for you personally, including lowering the risk of heart disease. 

5. Get engaged in one of the UA’s many sustainability clubs or programs

There are amazing opportunities for students on campus for everything from composting to diverting furniture from the landfills while students move from the dorms. Join one of the UA’s sustainability organizations like Students for Sustainability or Greening the Game, apply for a sustainability project grant through the Green Fund or become an Eco Rep in your dorm. There is no better way to learn sustainable practices than from your fellow Wildcats. To learn more about sustainable opportunities on campus, visit www.environment.arizona.edu/green-guides. 

Jamie Verwys works at the Office of Sustainability and actually loves digging through the trash for that sweet, sweet compost


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