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Going Green: College Student Edition

Image from http://www.americanconsumernews.com/2009/02/the-cost-of-clutter.html

This blog was writ­ten by for­mer Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity intern Mar­gette Bourne. Thanks, Mar­gette for your blog and all your work at OES!


Col­lege. The word brings thoughts of free­dom, crammed dorms, par­ties, and all-nighters in the library. When I accepted my offer to the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, these were the kinds of things I was think­ing about. Mov­ing from the rou­tine of high school and liv­ing at home to the mas­sive scope of a state uni­ver­sity cam­pus, I did not ini­tially think of how such a change would alter the ways I attempted to live an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Liv­ing on cam­pus gives stu­dents many oppor­tu­ni­ties to reduce their impact on the Earth, but also many ways to aggra­vate envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems. For starters, liv­ing on a cam­pus means not hav­ing a car. I, along with the vast amount of other car-less stu­dents, was sav­ing energy every­day by sim­ply not hav­ing to drive to school. While Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land is a large cam­pus and many stu­dents took it upon them­selves to buy mopeds to tra­verse from class to class, most stu­dents either walk or bike. Not only was I get­ting exer­cise every­day from walk­ing all over the 1,250 acre cam­pus, I was sav­ing lots of energy.

The din­ing hall can be a trap for stu­dents to make envi­ron­men­tally poor deci­sions. While the din­ing hall offers reusable dish­ware, there are also the piles of car­ry­out mate­ri­als from to-go cups and trays to plas­tic uten­sils. These can be con­ve­nient, but they also cre­ate a pile of exces­sive waste. I don’t always stay in the din­ing hall to eat, but it seems waste­ful to me to take car­ry­out mate­ri­als every time. So, I resorted to bring­ing my own Tup­per­ware and uten­sils with me; I would ask the din­ing staff to put my food in the con­tain­ers I brought, which I would eat with my reusable uten­sils, cloth nap­kin, and reusable water bot­tle. Yes, I would receive some weird looks and encounter some con­fused work­ers, but I knew it was worth it.

Live-green chal­lenges did not end in the din­ing hall. Nowa­days, many class mate­ri­als can be found elec­tron­i­cally. To avoid cre­at­ing unnec­es­sary waste, I tried read­ing from my lap­top screen for arti­cles and read­ings that were placed online. It wasn’t always easy, but I saved hun­dreds of sheets of paper by doing so. If I had to print some­thing, I would choose to print pages front and back to save paper.

Also, there were the usual prac­tices of turn­ing off all the lights when leav­ing my room, recy­cling all the paper and plas­tics pos­si­ble, and unplug­ging unused elec­tron­ics. Some of these tips many seem obvi­ous, but not every­one knows how great an impact these small changes can make. Whether doing some­thing as sim­ple as turn­ing off the lights when you leave a room or some­thing as great as con­vert­ing to sus­tain­able energy sources, stu­dents, col­lege cam­puses, and every­one alike can pro­mote envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity. The Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land won America’s Green­est Cam­pus Con­test in 2009 and has a stu­dent body that is actively push­ing for clean energy on cam­pus. It goes to show that peo­ple can come to together, by doing small and great actions alike, to make an envi­ron­men­tal difference.

~Mar­gette Bourne, OES Intern

August 2012


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