So here are five tangibles actions to reduce your environmental impact in the new year and new academic semester. Perhaps you can even pull Marshall Mathers and lose yourself... in sustainability! That might be a weak joke, but the earth certainly isn't getting any cooler and the new year is a great time to make small changes so you can keep living your best life for you, but also for the planet. Here’s how:
Make your travel mug your new best friend
Travel mugs are should be as essential as coffee is to university students. My parents bought this fantastic set of camping mugs when I was first born and now this Europe Bound bad boy never leaves my side. It clips onto my bags with a carabineer so as I move throughout my day, my coffee and tea consumption feels a little more campy and a lot more sustainable.
Shameless plug time: The Office of Campus Sustainability runs Muggy Mondays which offers FREE fair trade coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to anyone who brings a reusable mug, promotes waste reduction and environmental sustainability!
Ecosia is B Corp (that is, Benefit Corporation: see below) which allows you to help plant trees while searching the web. This eco-conscious add-on web browser plants trees with its ad revenue. It's simple to add it to your existing browser like Google Chrome and you can see the impact your internet research has as it shows you the number of trees you’ve helped to plant.
Shop ethically on campus and beyond
Many firms and companies are moving towards making sustainability matter more than the bottom lines as part of a growing movement of Benefit Corporations, non-profit organizations and sustainability-geared companies. The power is in the choice! Companies you may already love like Patagonia, Ethical Bean Coffee and Reformation have made sustainable commitments to ethical practices as well as to social and environmental contributions. When on campus, student-run businesses like Cafe-Alt, have made tangible commitments to composting, recycling, and minimizing their environmental impact. Looking for an uOttawa-based, student run non-profit for ethical fashion? Check out the incredible Balance Project.
Eat less meat!
I strive to never become a preachy or strict vegan. People should eat what makes them feel good and what they feel good about eating. However, I urge folks to educate themselves upon the impact of certain diets and food groups. It is undeniable that the animal agriculture industry as a whole is unsustainable and has a massive impact upon climate change. Educate yourself about the impact your dietary lifestyle may have so you can make informed decisions about what you want to put into your body.
Perhaps check out the piece written about meat consumption on our campus here. Eating less meat and animal-based products directly supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Try cutting meat and animal products out of meals you typically make and replacing them with chickpeas (curry), beans (chili) or tofu (stir-fry). You'll feel good about saving money and saving the environment.
Recycling can be a struggle. Coordinating which week is what and playing chicken with your roommates about who gets to take it to the curb in freezing conditions is 100% a struggle. However, recycling is the cornerstone of a sustainable lifestyle and distinguishing between what materials belong where is so important in reducing the amount of waste we dump each week. Check out the city's recycling schedule here, then familiarize yourself with the university's current recycling system and don't forget to compost!
Better yet, reuse some of the recyclables and waste. Washed out jam jars are trendy drink wear, old hummus containers are perfect for on-campus snacks, and clear plastic produce bags can go right back into your reusable grocery bags (which you should already be using, I mean, come on, it is 2017). Get creative and see how close to zero waste you can get!
Whether or not you are the type of person that likes to make New Year resolutions, making a commitment to leading a more sustainable lifestyle is a resolution we should all start to make, step by step, one intentional choice after another.