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Living Green as a Student

Updated on October 20, 2007
Photo credit: Harvard University
Photo credit: Harvard University

Thanks to the environmentally-friendly efforts of celebrities like Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, going green is quickly becoming the hottest trend of the day. However, for those of us broke-college kids who can't afford hybrid vehicles or solar-paneled rooftops, here are a few ways to live green, without spending a lot of green.

You Are How You Eat and Live

  • Eat off of reusable plates, bowls and silverware rather than throwaway paper products. Don't feel like doing dishes? Eat over the sink.
  • Pack a garbage-free lunch; take reusable containers instead.
  • Before buying school supplies in September, take a look at what you have left over from June to save a little extra cash.
  • Start a campaign at your school to develop a campus-wide composting program; ask your "Soil Sciences" department for help. Remember, getting involved with your school community looks great on a resume; especially when you get asked if you've initiated any projects on your own.
  • Another terrific campaign idea is the "Green Pledge" for your school's Greek houses. The school agrees to provide houses within the Greek system tools to make their houses more resource (electricity, water, heating) efficient in a cost effective way.

On Your Own

When you move out of the residence halls and into your own place, green living becomes very important because it has a direct impact on your electricity bills. Therefore, check out the following:

  • Are the appliances energy-efficient? Do your dishwasher, freezer, washer and dryer have energy saver settings? If not, when using whatever appliances you have, make sure to only wash full loads while doing laundry or the dishes.
  • Moreover, be sure to close your refrigerator door, and don't mess around with the industry setting on the freezer. According to Seattle City Light, a refrigerator just 10 degrees colder than necessary can increase energy consumption by 25 percent, and cost you a pretty penny.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFLs give off the same amount of light while using a fraction of the energy and last six times longer than regular bulbs.
  • According to Time Magazine, residential energy use accounts for 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, so check potential houses or apartments for heat, air and moisture leakage, especially around windows and doors.

  • Wash your car the natural way - wait until it rains... or wait until your neighbors have a wet T-shirt contest, and park nearby.
  • Take your own, reusable canvas bags to the grocery store.
  • Avoid the use of aerosols. Use flowers and lavender to make your new place smell nice. Or, if you can, try baking something... unless you're like me and only capable of filling the house with noxious smoke fumes.

Getting Around

Let's face it; usually, having a car on campus is more trouble than it's worth. With hundreds of other students hunting for that elusive parking spot, unless you're on campus by 7:00 a.m., you're out of luck. Not to mention that once you've parked out near the crops unit and sprinted across campus, you'll still wind up ducking in through the backdoor. Add to that the price of a parking permit, rising gas prices, and the stress of traffic, why bother?

  • For every gallon of gas burned, 25.3 pounds of carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere in addition to other harmful vehicle emissions like nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons, which all deplete the ozone.

Luckily, there are tons of other ways to get around campus:

  • Most universities offer some form of public bus service to help students get to and from campus. In fact, some of these programs, like those found of the University of Delaware, University of Colorado at Boulder, and SUNY Stony Brook, use biodiesel fuel and pollution-free hydrogen power.
  • Car-sharing programs are growing rapidly across the country. Zipcar, the largest car-sharing company in the world, has formed partnerships with more than 40 universities, including University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Yale University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program allows students with at least two years of driving experience and a clean driving record to rent a car for as little as $5 per hour. Not only is sharing cheaper than owning, but it benefits the environment as well.
  • The only true pollution-free way to get around is to ride a bike or walk, which not only save loads of CO2 emissions, but can burn as much as 175 calories per hour.
  • For long-distance travel, use Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains, which offer discounts through frequent-travelers' rewards and Student Advantage discount cards, which cost as little as $20 per year.
  • Check out Craigslist, Facebook and university billboards for ride shares, but make sure you know actually with whom you are riding.

Buyer Beware

Remember in the 1989 Batman movie when Joker terrorizes the city by releasing contaminated cosmetics to the public? Well, it may not be as far-fetched an idea as it seems. Try lead-laden lipsticks and the hundreds of pounds of cosmetics we use over the years in various forms - all in direct contact with our skin, being absorbed into our bodies.

In a report on lipsticks carried out by the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics, a third of brand-name lipsticks tested exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy. Like candy, lipstick is also ingested; a woman who wears lipstick 5 days a week, for over 20 years will winds up ingesting a couple of pounds.

The news about lead in lipstick is another good reason women should be extra cautious of what they apply to their skin. These days, there's a wide range of fairly priced natural cosmetic product alternatives available. To locate the products, use Google to search for terms like "organic" and "natural" followed by the item of your choice. Remember, if enough consumers protest by spending their makeup dollars elsewhere on more natural, cosmetic companies will take notice.


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    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      9 years ago from Holly, MI

      What a fabulous and helpful hub!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I like this Hub very much and have joined your fanclub! Great Job!


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