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