Environmentality: Top ten ways to conserve on campus


Claire Barnett

Photo by Claire Barnett // Vanderbilt Hustler

Kailey Newcome

Living sustainably doesn’t have to be overly complicated. As we start off a new year, here are a few tips to leading a more environmentally-conscious campus life.

  1. Use your recycling bin: Every room comes equipped with its own set of recycling and trash bins. Students often make the mistake of throwing things away that could be recycled or vice versa. Learn what can and can’t be put in your recycling bin. Some examples of recyclables include paper (old homework or notes), boxes (can be found everywhere after move in!), empty plastic bottles/containers and empty metal and aluminum cans.
  2. Turn off the lights: It’s not uncommon for students to put extra lighting in their rooms in addition to their fluorescent ceiling lights, whether it be desk lamps, bed lights or twinkly fairy lights. While the lights may look amazing, they are doing some serious damage to the environment. Make sure that you turn off all your lights when you aren’t using them (when you leave the room, go to sleep, etc.). If it’s during the day, try to utilize natural light from the window and give your lights a break.
  3. Meatless Monday: Over 30 percent of global land is used to raise livestock, with the livestock sector accounting for nearly 10 percent of human-related CO2 emissions and about 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide emissions. Both of these gases are contributing to global warming, and an easy way to reduce your ecological footprint is to cut down on your meat consumption. If you don’t think you can go meatless for a day, try limiting it to just one portion a day. Vanderbilt offers an abundance of meatless options, especially at their new smoothie and salad stations. Other stations such as Bowls @ CBJ, Chef James Bistro and Wok Station also offer meatless meals that vary with the day of the week.
  4. Only take what you can eat: One of the best environmentally friendly behaviors to adopt is the “no waste” rule. This philosophy states that you only take the amount of food you can eat; there shouldn’t be anything on your plate once you’ve finished. According to a study by SPEAR in March 2017, just one Vanderbilt cafeteria alone generated nearly 600 pounds of food waste in a day. By only taking what you need, this waste could drop significantly. If you feel bad wasting a side from your meal swipe, try grabbing a snack you can save for later.
  5. Go digital: Reducing the amount of paper you use is a good way to save trees and help the environment. Try taking notes on a computer instead of using a notebook. Ask your professor if you can submit homework online. Buy the online version of your textbook versus the paperback. Set up your calendar on your phone with reminder apps instead of using post-it notes and calendar books. These small changes will quickly reduce your paper consumption.
  6. Donation Station: Go to thrift shops and give outfits a second life. Not only are you being environmentally conscious, but you’ll also save money! Don’t forget that it works both ways—donate your clothes when you don’t want them anymore. Someone else will likely want them more than you do.
  7. Unplug: Your cords still use energy when you leave them plugged in. In fact, millions of kilowatt hours are consumed every year due to unused cord plug-ins, with each kilowatt hour equating to about a pound of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Unplugging your cord when your done will help reduce this statistic.  
  8. Shorten your showers: No one likes that person that takes hour-long showers when others need to use it, too. Besides annoying your suitemates, you’re also wasting a huge amount of water. Every minute you spend in the shower uses about 2.15 gallons of water. If you shower for just 20 minutes, you’ve already used 43 gallons of water. That’s almost ten times the amount the average person needs to drink for a whole week. Take that into consideration before you step in the shower next time.
  9. Carry around a water bottle: Everyone needs to stay hydrated. Instead of purchasing harmful plastic water bottles, opt to invest in a reusable water bottle. There are numerous water bottle filling stations around campus designed just for their use. Take advantage of them!
  10. Lead by example: People tend to mimic what they see. If you start taking steps towards environmentally friendly behavior, others are likely to follow suit. Challenge your friends to “clean plate” competitions, get them their own water bottle for their birthday, remind them that the item they’re throwing away can be recycled and even share clothes with your roomie so they don’t have to go out and buy more! The possibilities are endless. While many of these are small steps, they are steps in the right direction. When we start making these steps together, we drive real change.