While there are difficulties to being sustainable in college as a student, there will still be challenges when I graduate in a few days! There have been posts about how to be green while a student, but the choices graduates make are just as important. Here are a few things I plan to change once I graduate.
Food Choices: For me, food choices are the majority of my budget besides rent, so making sustainable choices around food is a huge part of my life. Particularly the packaging of the food I buy is what I notice in my trash can. Zero waste tip number one from Lauren Singer is evaluate what your garbage is, and for me it’s filmy plastic that usually was wrapped around some sort of food. In taking her advice I would like to switch to buying less packaged food. The reason I haven’t done this already had been due to my limited time for cooking, so premade food has been my go to. Hopefully with no homework I’ll have some time to cook whole foods that don’t come in packages. Another sustainable option in choosing foods is looking to support organic growing practices and local produce to reduce pesticides in water systems and emissions from transporting produce long distances. Hopefully I’ll save some money making these choices too!
Appliances: With moving in to more stable housing after graduation, I will have the opportunity to prioritize energy saving appliances and fixtures that conserve water. Whether I prioritize these when I’m looking for a new apartment or if I make these improvements with the approval of my landlord, these are something I can do when living in a place longer than a year. I can also get rid of my microwave that I got for free and invest in something a little sleeker when it comes to wattage and energy use. For people who are graduating and maybe moving back in with parents, you can help them make long term improvements to their home (and help them see that you really did learn something in college!)
Transportation: One of my goals post-graduation is a stable schedule, and with a stable schedule comes consistent transportation routines. I’m hoping with this change I can utilize smarter ways of getting to and from my job. This may be public transportation like busing, or even carpooling with some of my new co-workers. This means I’ll be using my ancient automobile less frequently and producing less carbon emissions. Plus I can save on gas money!
Sustainable switches when buying new housewares: Lastly, moving in to a new place means changing up some of the items I have, or replacing the ones that my roommates have provided over the years. I am especially interested in getting durable items that will last for a while, versus the cheap plastic items that I figured would get pretty beat up during college. In general I’ll be swapping out plastic items for non-plastics, like a washable shower curtain, a wooden toilet bowl brush, and better ceramic dishes that won’t stain. With cutting out plastic for durable items, I also hope to cut back on paper products for durable materials as well. This means using fabric dish towels instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
Overall lifestyle switches: Developing new habits while everything else is changing too might be easier than trying to change something with no other motivation. If you are the kind of person that believes in baby steps this might not be the best strategy for you. However, if you are all about turning over a new leaf, graduation might be the springboard for a new sustainable lifestyle. Some examples would be carrying reusables with you, like a water bottle, coffee cup, and silverware, or reusable shopping bags. I’ve already made those changes, but I’m hoping that with a new place to live, and a new job there will be other opportunities in my life to make better choices.
Additionally SPU has some great ways to make these choice before our graduation. Like Tim mentioned our caps and gowns are made out of old plastic bottles and have been since 2011. As a way of recycling plastic bottles instead of having them go into landfills they are made into graduation garb. Additionally the material can be recycled after graduation as well. The Alumni Department is also starting graduates off the right foot with a reusable tumbler for beverages. Not to mention it helps provide clean water to someone else!