Housing & Living Fall 2018

Having an environmentally friendly household


City of Bloomington trash and recycling bins sit behind Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. The Sustainability Action Plan, expected to be finalized this month, outlines the city’s long-term goals, short-term priorities, responsible parties, timelines and cost estimates related to the city’s sustainability efforts for the next five years.  Andrew Williams

Being environmentally friendly seems easy. Recycling isn’t an issue in Bloomington, and neither is turning off the lights when you leave a room or the water when you brush your teeth. 

But it’s more than that.

Living in an environmentally friendly home requires constant effort, even when you’re away from home. When you’re at the store grocery shopping or apartment decor browsing, there are several things to keep in mind if you’re being environmentally friendly. 

The average person throws away 4.4 pounds of trash every day, which translates to over 1,600 pounds of garbage per year. Living in an environmentally friendly home can reduce not only this waste, but simultaneously help the Earth in the process. There are a few things easy I do as a college student to reduce my waste. 

First of all, I don't buy paper towels and napkins, because they are a scam — someone had to tell you. It’s not only a waste of your money, but paper towels and napkins usually come in plastic packaging, and all of it goes straight into the trash after being used. You can save money and the Earth by using rags and towels, that can be washed and reused, as napkins. For paper towels used to clean, cut up old t-shirts, the ones you were thinking of donating or throwing away, and use those as cleaning rags instead.

Cleaning while being environmentally friendly is easier than one may think. It just takes some searching. Ditch plastic toilet bowl cleaners and dish brushes for your bathroom, and instead browse Amazon for compostable or recyclable options. This is easy and cheap, all while looking aesthetically pleasing. Search for different homemade house cleaner recipes, purchase a glass spray bottle — or reuse an old one — and make your own. For some, it’s as easy as four ingredients.

While focusing on the bathroom, consider telling the dentist "no thank you" to the plastic toothbrush after a visit. Plastic toothbrushes take around 400 years to decompose, while bamboo toothbrushes that can be purchased on Amazon are compostable. 

While I something thiDoing dishes is sometimes a hassle, which is why many college students opt for red solo cups and paper plates in their homes. As someone trying to help out the planet, I have avoided solo cups and paper plates since freshman year, but sometimes I'll use them at parties. Buying reusable plates and cups can have a massive effect on the environment. Plus, everything looks more put-together and "grown-up" when it’s served on a real plate and cup.

Having a nicely decorated apartment sometimes feels like it should be part of the college experience, but you don’t have to hurt the planet while you do it. If you’re a fan of Christmas lights, instead of purchasing new strings of lights, consider buying secondhand. For other decor, consider plants or something that won’t get sent to the landfill after use. Remember that as a college student, the space occupied is temporary. Purchasing non-recyclable items, such as decor and furniture, means they'll likely have to be sent to the landfill later on.

Plus, plants make every room look cuter.

A common misconception with plastic is that it can be recycled and reused, but a plastic being recyclable doesn’t always mean it’s going to be recycled right away, if at all. For example, different types of plastic take longer to break down— the average time for a plastic water bottle to break down is 450 years. That means every bottle a college student has used in their lifetime is still on this Earth somewhere. 

Lucky for the planet, plastic can easily be ditched and replaced. Getting rid of plastic bags is an easy first step — asking for paper bags or bringing reusable ones is simple, and the latter sometimes saves money. Additionally, a stainless steel water bottle is a one-time purchase that can potentially last forever, if treated correctly. 

Being environmentally friendly takes constant effort, and can be exhausting at first. In the end, though, that effort is worth reducing to 1,600 pounds of trash that you could be producing in one year, even if it's just a little bit. The Earth can never tell you thank you with words, but rest assured, mother nature is grateful.

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