Many college students advocate “going green” and consider themselves environmentally friendly, and there are several organizations at the UA that aim to educate, like Students for Sustainability, Compost Cats, and the Rainwater Harvesting Committee.
Whether you consider yourself “green” or not, there is always room for improvement—and it starts with learning innovative ways to show love to Mother Earth.
“The University of Arizona is at the forefront of sustainability in a college setting,” said Maddy Bynes, the Committee Chair for the Rainwater Harvesting Committee. The organization aims to educate the UA on water harvesting and operates under Students for Sustainability, which works to promote environmental activism and educating UA students.
“College is all about getting involved, so if someone were to be looking into “going green” they should look at different programs like Students for Sustainability to learn more about how they can create environmentally friendly habits in their personal lives,” said Bynes.
Simple changes can produce great effects, all you have to do is dedicate yourself and get started.
“Making small efforts to change how you use electronics, how you transport yourself places, whether you have your air condition on all the time…those simple things in your daily habits can make a huge impact,” said Natalie Lucas, environmentalism grad student. “First, I think consumerism is a really big issue.”
Lucas urges people to consider the amount of waste we generate. By selling your clothes online or shopping at thrift stores you can give new life to an old garment. Another step one can take, is by thinking twice about if you really need that new phone or pair of shoes before you make a purchase—your wallet will thank you.
“It makes more sense financially to be environmentally friendly,” said Lucas.
Switching to a limited or no-meat diet and making changes to your travel habits are easy ways to save you money while eliminating production costs, negative environmental effects from production, and reduce air pollutants.
“There are a lot of options that students don’t utilize to decrease their travel,” said Lucas. “Become more aware of what you do and your surroundings because it all adds up.”
Choose to bike to school, carpool with a friend, or utilize public transportation instead of driving. If you’re going to the Rec Center ride your bike and double your exercise. Tucson is extremely bike-friendly and there are many route options for bikers across the city.
Student housing complexes like College Place and Blue Agave Apartments among others do not offer recycling to its residents, and all trash—including recyclable plastics, paper, glass, and cardboard—go into the same dumpster. My apartment complex doesn’t recycle, so I box up my recyclables and find a recycle bin somewhere around Tucson. It’s time costly and effort-conscious, but it’s worth it not to let everything go to waste.
When Lucas had a similar situation at her apartment, she encouraged neighbors to speak to the manager and within a couple months recycle bins were introduced. By encouraging those around you to be environmentally conscious you’re working as an activist for the Earth.
“Any student looking to become more sustainable should first and foremost remember the 3R’s: ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle,’” said Bynes. “By following this and incorporating it into daily life, we are better able to practice the basics of sustainability.”
The first step is to reduce your consumption. When you’ve reduced all the waste, water, and energy that you can it is time to reuse.
“Reclaimed water is a great example of reuse,” said Bynes. “It is reusing water we already have used for a different purpose, essentially giving it another life.”
Lastly, recycling is vital. UA students are very informed about its importance, but often people won’t walk an extra ten feet to the many blue and green recycling bins around campus. Students for Sustainability has pushed for more bins to be placed around campus, including near all athletic fields.
“On the UA campus we pay a lot more for trash per ton than for recycling,” said Lucas. “The companies get rebates from recycling; the more they recycle the more they get back.”
To protect our big beautiful Earth, we must be the ones to take initiative. It starts small but the effect of educating, practicing, and being an activist for the environment will pay off. If you really want to consider yourself “green,” take the steps to prove it.