How to start saving the planet from campus

31 Oct 2018

This month, climate change is on everyone’s minds again, not only because of a freak heat wave in the middle of October, but also due to the latest UN’s report on the matter. Student Nastia Nizalova believes that fighting this problem starts with you. She gives tips about being sustainable on campus.

Emotions about climate change range from panic to denial and claims of it being a hoax. The last seems like a crazy stance, but we all get it – it’s hard to take responsibility for the planet’s decline. Even harder for some, is losing money to make necessary changes in industries across the globe in order to prevent or at the very least slow down the inevitable climate changes.

The Paris agreement that most nations have signed in 2015 to curb temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius in this century apparently needs to be revised, and now we need to limit it to 1.5 degrees. Even though that still leads to irreversible changes, but those 0.5 degrees make a world of difference. We might be able to prevent total loss of the coral reefs and the Arctic ice.

So here you are, a typical student, not much disposable income, not much agency in terms of making huge changes. Is there anything at all you can do? Yes, yes and again yes. Today let’s look at what you can do to be sustainable at university.

Bring a reusable bottle
This one is easy, although I admit that sometimes you forget and end up buying water. But every attempt helps and we’re all fortunate to have drinking water right from the tap, so why not make use of that? You don’t even have to spend money on something fancy, and not buying disposable plastic water bottles every time sure saves a penny or two.

Print less or not at all
Yes, reading on paper is often better, making notes on your thesis is easier when you print it and sometimes lecturers require you to print out papers. However, if enough of us refuse to print and push for a paperless academic environment eventually even the strictest professors will give in. Plus if you only need to carry your laptop to study, it saves you a looot of trouble.

Make use of the recycling bins on campus
Perhaps there aren’t as many as we would like, but once you know where they are it’s easier to make a habit out of recycling.

Meal prep or get hot meals without packaging
For the organized and active – meal prep all the way. Just dedicate some time to preparing your lunches and have a delicious meal even at uni! But if you’re like me and can’t make time to cook in advance, opt for eating a meal that’s not pre-packaged. Insider’s tip: the law building has some pretty great food options that won’t break your bank.

Consider switching to another search engine
By now there are dozens of search engines that donate some of their profit to preserving the environment and planting trees. The most popular one is Ecosia, but you can also use Ecosearch or Blackle.

Use a reusable coffee mug
I admit, this one takes a bit more effort on your part – the cleaning and carrying around. That is if you don’t know yet where to find reusable cups on campus (hint: one place is the philosophy faculty). Let’s assume that the average student drinks one coffee per day, even though we, coffee lovers, know that is a severe underestimation. By the end of the academic year you would have used at least 180 disposable cups. At the moment there are over 20 000 students enrolled at Radboud and given that the Dutch drink more than 1 cup of joe per day let’s say that most students drink coffee . If 20 000 students drink only 1 cup of coffee in one academic year (which is about 168 days if you exclude study weeks and holidays) then every year we would throw out over 3.6 million cups, which oftentimes aren’t properly recycled.

Incorporate more plant-based meals
Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but every once in a while you can include vegetarian or even vegan dishes in your diet. It may surprise you how delicious it can be and also not that expensive! Some of my favorite veggie dishes are curries, soups, pastas and veggie burgers. I’m telling you – there is a world of flavor out there that you can enjoy and at the same time minimize your carbon footprint. Also, the uni offers plenty of plant-based options, so go ahead and try it out!

Don’t be lazy and cycle, cycle, cycle!
Fortunately, this is the most popular way of getting to places here as a student, but if you’re still in doubt whether or not to invest in a bike… Just. Do. It. It’s faster, cheaper and you’re gonna work off those extra late night snacks before you know it. Plus you don’t have to rely on public transport schedules and stay out partying for however long you like!

Avoid buying textbooks or share them
This works great both for the environment and your money. Whenever you can – find an electronic version or share the costs of a secondhand textbook with your classmates. If you want to take it a step further for your convenience you might even want to scan one from the library! Disclaimer: this will require using quite a lot of energy, so pick your battles, every action has its pros and cons.

Spread awareness!
Although it’s hard to imagine, some people don’t know what they are capable of. So take initiative and offer to share your books, tell people where to get their coffee in a mug and the next time a friend’s birthday is coming up consider getting them a reusable water bottle or thermos. Nobody’s perfect, we all have a long way to go, but you gotta start somewhere.

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