As a packaging science major, my job in the future will literally be to make trash. Therefore, I am reminded daily of the effect that plastics and other waste have on our environment, and what we should be doing to prevent further damage to our beautiful earth. And while most companies have formed sustainability initiatives to cut back on carbon emissions and use more sustainable materials, there are many ways that we as individuals can do our part to protect our planet. Here are 10 simple ways that you too can make a difference:
1. Bring reusable bottles and cups wherever you go
While this may be obvious, I think we’d all be lying if we said that we haven’t purchased bottled drinks in the recent past. Luckily, one way to combat this guilt we all share is to do better next time. You don’t have to go full-out VSCO girl and buy a tie-dye Hydroflask, but you should try to bring some kind of water bottle or cup with you at all times. And if a healthier planet can’t convince you, maybe this will: reusable containers can actually save you money. A lot of coffee shops will give a discount for bringing in your own container. Most notably, Starbucks gives a 10 cent discount for bringing in their reusable cup. Many buildings on campus have a place for you to easily refill your water bottles, so remember to BYOC before you end up giving another two dollars to a vending machine.
2. Use plastic straw alternatives
Hating the texture of paper straws is not a good enough reason to put innocent turtles in harm's way. Even though cancelling plastic straws is not gonna save the planet, or sea turtles, by itself, it does have the power to change people’s perspectives and introduce them to the concept of sustainability. We all have a few items that we carry on us at all times, so why not add one more to the mix? Metal, bamboo, glass etc., there are a whole slew of reusable straw types that you can try out. And if you’re one of those people who want to cut-off plastic for good but have a tendency to chew on your straws, try silicone straws: they are rubbery in texture and dishwasher safe.
3. Research your brands
We all have brands that we love, but it’s important for us to know what they truly do with their money. So, before making your next purchase, take some time to research a company’s sustainability initiative. Because, while it’s great to purchase reusable items and recycle, it is also great to know that your brands are taking on environmental responsibilities as well. And if the results you find aren’t exactly green, maybe do some more research to find companies that align with your morals and environmental interests.
4. Carpool with friends (or ride the bus)
With temperatures dropping, it’s hard to recommend strictly biking to class or work in order to benefit the environment. And while more sustainable transportation does have a greater impact, there is another simple solution: carpooling. Most students have to go onto campus some time during the week, so maybe next time ask your friends if they need a lift. Or better yet, make a weekly carpooling schedule; not only will you save money on gas and bond with your friends, but you can still stay warm and know that you are making an environmentally friendly choice. And if you can’t stand your friends music taste or their driving scares you a bit, there’s nothing wrong with taking the good ol’ CATbus to class.
5. Be mindful of your water waste
Yes, when we pour water down the drain we do have water treatment plants that makes it safe to use again. However, the amount of energy that goes into this process is not something to be taken lightly. We are lucky to live in a place where clean water is just a faucet away, but that doesn’t mean we should waste what we have. While it’s hard to limit yourself to “x amount” of water per day, just try to be mindful of how long you are showering, if you are truly gonna drink that whole glass of water and the amount of time between you turning on a faucet and you actually using it.
6. One man’s trash is an opportunity for crafts
Before throwing out that old shirt or your jelly jar, maybe take a minute to explore the wonderful world of crafting. Sure that may be a milk jug now, but give it 30 minutes and you can have the cutest piggy bank or flower pot you’ve ever seen. Tests, essays and presentations are making our lives so mundane, so why not spice it up a little with some good old fashion fun? There are genuinely blogs upon blogs dedicated to sustainable crafts, so just in case you are having trouble getting those creative juices flowing, feel free to use google as your inspiration. Not only is it fun and easy, but you already have your materials at your fingertips.
7. Recycle cans on gameday (and everyday)
Tailgates are ingrained into our traditions here at Clemson. And with our current football record, the amount of excitement only increases with every game. So while you’re celebrating Etienne’s latest touchdown run or Brett Venables’ star defense, try to do so in an environmentally responsible way. Maybe it’s a Natty Light kinda day, or possibly you’re trying out the latest spiked seltzer, either way those cans should be recycled. Our teams are the furthest thing away from trash, so there’s no reasons we as fans should be making so much of it.
8. Shop with reusable bags
This is a quick and easy way to not only prevent an unnecessary use of plastic, but reusable bags also tend to be stronger, allowing you to carry your groceries without the fear of them tearing through the bag. Plus, while you may have good intentions of throwing the plastic bags away in their allotted bins at grocery stores, most of us become bag hoarders instead. So before you become subject to keeping a special drawer or cabinet for your plastic bags, try to use something more sustainable and trust me, this is one tip you won’t regret implementing.
9. Recycle plastic correctly
If it looks like plastic, feels like plastic and literally says it is plastic on the container, then fun fact: it’s probably plastic. However, just because something is plastic does not mean it is recyclable. Some plastics are laminated into films with other types of plastic and cannot be separated from each other, and some plastics are currently not able to be recycled due to its chemical properties. There are many reasons why something may not be recyclable, but it is important for you to know how to detect that. Luckily, most containers will have specific directions on how to recycle their products, just look for the recycling symbol on your package and let that be your guide. Pro tip: if recycling a bottle, remove the cap and any plastic label as they may need to be treated differently.
10. Hold your friends accountable
I know, I know, no one wants to be “that guy” and call out your friends for throwing a can in the lake or printing out 20 copies of a paper when they only needed three. But screw it, PLEASE be that guy, we need more of those people out there to remind us all to be better. Even if it’s just a simple reminder for them to recycle that bottle next time, or if you literally have pelt trash at them and scream “this is what you’re doing to our environment!” As long as you can get them to be more conscientious about their decisions, you do what you gotta do. We share this planet and keeping it healthy is a team effort, so don’t be afraid to give your teammates a little push when needed.