It’s possible to make sustainable choices during the school year

Anthony Rivera

Yes, I know. You spend every morning hitting snooze one time too many and rushing out of your apartment 30 minutes after when you intended on leaving. You run out of the door with half a granola bar falling out of your mouth and hope that maybe today’s the day the bus decides to be on time.

From there, you spend your day rushing between classes, work, student org responsibilities and random adult errands that you now have to run all of the sudden, and it’s a good day if you remember to recycle the bottle of water you chugged before you hopped onto the bus.

Even given your hectic life, you still want to find some way to be sustainable. You recognize  we have a rapidly changing climate, there’s a Texas-sized patch of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, and if we don’t play our part, we and future generations may suffer.

So what can you do to reduce your carbon footprint without making changes that feel like a strict diet you dropped after just three days?

The answer is — a lot. You could tweak your lifestyle for your entire life and still feel like there is more you can do, but that’s not the point of this column. 

What I can offer you is a starting point to becoming environmentally conscious and doing something about it. The rest will happen along the way!

Buy (and actually use) reusables. 

Drink coffee? Buy a reusable travel mug and ask your favorite barista to fill it instead of using the disposable ones they have (Note: those may not be recyclable). Most places will give you a discount or will just charge you for the smallest size too  — just ask!

See all of those nifty water bottle stations around campus? Yeah, the ones you paid for. Fill up a reusable water bottle (or even that same coffee mug) instead of buying all of those plastic water bottles. I promise the water is much cleaner than you’d think it is.

Ziploc bags and food wrap can get really expensive. Make a one-time investment in some reusable containers and throw your sandwich or leftovers in there — and get something microwave-safe so you don’t have to waste time putting it on a plate.

I could go on for pages, but generally, just watch and then question what you are disposing of in the trash can. Throwing away a granola bar wrapper? TerraCycle it. Tossing out 6 produce bags from the store? Amazon’s got you. Once you get on a roll, you’ll have the mindset forever.

Think about food-related sustainability.

Ever wanted to have an organic garden? Rent a plot at the UT Microfarm. It’s literally only ten dollars per semester to rent a four by four garden plot in which you can do whatever you want. 

Try to eat less meat. Not only is eating less meat good for you, as it usually contributes to a lot of the fat in our diet, but less meat production also leads to less greenhouse gases being emitted. Also, it’s super easy to do in Austin — just try the Veggie Royale from Bouldin Creek Cafe.

Make an effort to educate yourself.

Put on your pajamas or your large org t-shirt, turn on the streaming service of your choosing, and watch one of those environmental documentaries you always scroll past on Netflix. Stop making excuses and finally go out to a sustainability event on campus or around Austin that interests you. It could be just what you need to feel inspired. 

Join an organization, whether campus-based or national, to surround yourself with people who have different perspectives.

There is, of course, so much more you can do to integrate sustainability into your lifestyle, but if you can just do at least one of these each semester, you’ll be a tree-hugger before you know it!

Rivera is a director at the Campus Environmental Center