By Brianna Williams, News Editor

I get it—not everyone wants to or has the opportunity to go completely vegan, put solar panels on their roof and drive an electric car to their nonprofit job that focuses on saving the planet. Especially for college students, all of those things can be extremely difficult or simply not possible. But as college students and the upcoming adult generation, we do have a responsibility to make some changes for this earth. Those changes can be so incredibly simple, too, and probably make more of an impact than you’d think. 


Use reusable shopping bags: This is maybe the easiest way to be more eco-friendly. Most grocery stores offer reusable bags now that cost less than $5 and save tons of plastic. While plastic grocery bags are technically recyclable, most recycling centers refuse them due to the fact that the cost to recycle them outweighs their value. According to this article, if every person in New York (just NY) used one less plastic grocery bag when shopping, it would cut waste by 5 million pounds and save $250,000 in disposal costs. Aldi’s reusable bags are only $2, and two of them can most definitely carry all of your groceries and more. I really love reusable bags because of their affordability and the major impact that using them can make.


Be more conscious of what you’re eating: Veganism and vegetarianism are simply not an option for lots of people for various reasons (including just loving cheese too much—although some vegan cheeses are pretty killer), and that’s ok! What these people can do, however, is be more conscious of what they eat. Maybe try a “meatless Monday” or switch from cow’s milk to soy, oat, almond or coconut. If even those are too big a step for some people, they can try switching to “ethical eggs” or local, farm-raised chicken. Even cutting down on red meat consumption is a major step! If you’re wondering why eating more consciously is so important to the environment, I’ll condense tons of information and say that eating a plant-based lifestyle helps to combat climate change, soil, air, and water pollution, ocean dead zones and plenty other environmental concerns. If you’re interested, I suggest checking out the documentaries Cowspiracy (to learn more about the environmental impact) and Forks Over Knives (with more info on the health side).


Switch to cans instead of bottles for soda: Did you know that 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in circulation? The data on single-use plastics is far less encouraging. These plastics that have already been recycled (and only roughly 25% of plastic bottles actually make it to recycling centers) often end up as non-recyclable carpets or synthetic clothing. Ultimately, the use of aluminum cans for sodas or drinks is far better than that of plastic bottles. (Just make sure that you recycle that aluminum can so that it continues to be reused!)


Shop sustainably: Shopping sustainably is somewhat overlooked, but in reality it’s an easy—and often much cheaper—way to purchase clothing, furniture, and home items. Whether it be shopping from thrift stores, participating in swap/sell groups (such as UTC Girl’s Buyselltrade), or purchasing from more sustainable brands like Allbirds or ABLE (which is based in Tennessee!), this sustainable shopping is not only more eco-friendly but also more ethical and a great way to combat fast fashion. No matter what you’re buying, sustainable shopping helps in recycling things that may otherwise go to landfills, includes less consumption of fossil fuels and often has fewer chemical pesticides. 


Carpool, bike or walk: If you live far off campus, try carpooling with roommates to help reduce carbon emissions (and save money on gas!). If you’re near a coffee shop, store or restaurant, try walking or biking to get there instead of driving. Not only will you save gas and parking money, but you’ll also be helping out the environment in your own small way. Chattanooga’s bike rental system is an incredible program for students to utilize, especially those on campus—for a pretty decent price students can ride from campus to downtown to Northshore and back. 


Use Reusable cutlery/straws: Listen, we all know that plastic straws are not our biggest enemy right now, but that doesn’t mean that switching to reusable ones doesn’t make a difference. Besides the fact that plastic cutlery and straws are rather inefficient and annoying, they also do make up a large portion of plastics that end up in our oceans, landfills, and the side of the road. A simple, effortless way to combat that? Switching to reusable utensils. Keep a set at work, in the car, in your backpack—any place you tend to use plastic cutlery or straws. (I keep a single metal fork at work and wash it every day—it’s seriously that simple).


Hopefully, everyone can implement these small, easy changes into their everyday routine. If so, we really can make a difference, even when it may feel useless—I’m here to tell you that it’s not.

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