Human activity has been quickly—and effectively—destroying the planet since the Industrial Revolution. Our atmosphere is filling with carbon dioxide that will remain for years, trapping heat and warming the globe. This has resulted in melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and an increase in endangered species. In addition, our oceans are filling with plastic waste, and coastal ecosystems are being damaged beyond recognition.
This has been public knowledge for a long time and it has not been taken lightly, especially among young people. A recent study shows that college students are aware that climate change is a pressing issue, and acknowledge that it is caused by human activity. Students clearly care about the environment, so why do so many millennials shirk the responsibility of protecting the planet? The fact is—mega corporation deals and bureaucratic hoops aside—global warming will only be slowed if individual people, even college students, transition to a more sustainable lifestyle.
It’s clear that students care about the environment and wish to help, but very few take the initiative to make a difference. A BuzzFeed survey even determined that “millennials believe climate change is the most serious issue affecting the world.” So why is there such hesitation to make necessary changes in their own lives? Perhaps the issue seems too complex, and finding solutions too daunting, for a mere college student. College kids have enough on their plates, what with moving away from home and becoming independent adults. How can they keep their GPA up, get an internship, and maintain a social life, all while saving the planet?
The truth is that fighting global warming must start with regular people—including college students. When it comes to influencing major political decisions, international agreements, and business deals, there isn’t much that most of us can do. Consequently, whether regular people make small changes to their everyday habits will decide if we plunge the Earth into a state of irreversible damage or mitigate carbon emissions and make concrete efforts to stop this cycle of self-destruction.
At Boston College, there are many things students can easily do to reduce their individual carbon footprints and make a real impact in the fight to save the environment. Students care about the issue. Now is the time to show it. Here are ten simple lifestyle changes that college students can make for the sake of the planet:
- Stop buying plastic water bottles to keep in the dorm; instead, keep a couple of reusable water bottles and refill them throughout the day. This will ultimately be less expensive than constantly purchasing water and it will prevent plastic waste.
- Stop using straws! If it is absolutely necessary to use a disposable cup for juice or soda then that is one thing, but consider your decision critically before you go reaching for a convenient straw.
- Bring a personal travel mug to the dining hall or the Chocolate Bar for your morning coffee. The dining hall will allow you to do this and fill it for a discounted price. Not only is it easier to carry it around, but it also eliminates harmful waste.
- When eating in the dining hall, do not use disposable dishes. There is always a rack of ceramic plates sitting next to the counter, so choose that instead. When there is metal silverware available, use that instead of plastic.
- Take the time to separate trash from recycling. It can be tempting to toss everything in at once, but anything that can be reused and kept out of landfills makes a big difference in the environment.
- Limit your time in the shower. It’s easy to keep the water in the shower or sink running for longer than you really need it, but keep in mind that water is becoming an increasingly sparse and valuable resource around the world.
- Turn off the lights when leaving a room. This one may be obvious, but it’s shocking how many people leave the lights on in their dorms and bathrooms without thinking twice as they head out for the day.
- Try to stop eating red meat like beef and pork. The production of these meats is harmful to the environment and creates mass emissions of carbon and methane. An easy way to do this is to cut out meat for just one day of the week, something popularly referred to as Meatless Monday! Pro tip: Eat at Addie’s when possible, as the food is locally sourced and sustainable, making it better for you and the planet.
- When adventuring off campus, try to use public transportation instead of taking an Uber or another ride-sharing service. This may take longer, but if more people made this choice, it would highly reduce the number of cars on the road and cut down on carbon emissions.
- Actually talk about climate change. Talk with classmates and professors, and then bring that conversation off campus to friends and family back home. Educating others about climate change is the most effective way to spread awareness and compassion for the planet.
While acknowledging climate change as a pressing issue is crucial, the next thing to do is take small, meaningful actions to start solving the problem. College students have an important role in this fight; they are the ones who will deal with the repercussions of global warming in the upcoming years, and they are the generation best prepared to change it. They know what is happening to the planet and why it is happening, and they know that the issue is in their hands.
Want to help out? All you need to do is accept the personal, individual responsibilities that you have to heal the environment. You are never too young, too busy, or too broke to be the change you wish to see in the world. College students are the future, and it is up to college students to take action and stop destroying the planet.