Hello and welcome to the WashU Class of 2022! My name is Mackenzie Hines-Wilson, I’m a sophomore Arts & Sciences student and just one year ago I was in your exact same situation: a little excited, a little confused, and a little uncertain of how exactly I, as a first-year student, could start to make an impact on this campus. The large offerings of clubs, organizations, and academic programs can make it difficult to determine how you fit into helping our campus community. Well, I learned pretty quickly, as you soon will too, that WashU makes it pretty easy for students to not only better our community, but the current state of our environment.
Having worked as a Communication Associate at the Office of Sustainability for the past year, I’ve learned how simply altering a few of my daily habits and using certain campus resources can really have a positive impact on our environment and make our campus more sustainable. Listed below are a few easy ways you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint:
Don’t Buy New, Get Reused
One of my favorite campus stores is the Trading Post, by Sharing With a Purpose (SWAP)! This shop, located on the bottom level of Gregg, follows the principle of “free-cycling,” or the free exchange of goods. WashU community members can donate items and/or shop in the store for free! It’s a great way to not only find some hidden clothing gems, dorm décor, or replenish on school supplies, but also to help reduce consumer waste and to prevent valuable items from going to the landfill. Throughout the year, SWAP also hosts various events to educate our community to reuse and repurpose items in a creative and collaborative way.
Shift to a More Plant-Based Diet
At the Office of Sustainability, I learned that if everyone at WashU were to eat vegetarian one additional day per week, we could collectively reduce carbon emissions by as much as 5,000 metric tons annually! The meat industry requires an enormous amount of natural resources (not only energy but also water and land) and its intensive production methods impact our public health. Eating a more plant-based diet is an easy way to significantly reduce your carbon “foodprint” while saving money and improving your health. WashU offers a variety of delicious vegetarian options and the Green Monday campaign aims to educate the consumer about the impact of individual food choices.
Use Your Reusable Water Bottle
You may have asked yourself, “Why does WashU not sell plastic water bottles?” Well, that’s pretty simple: banning the sale of disposable water bottles significantly reduced waste and greenhouse gas emissions that our campus was producing. Before I came to WashU, I never really realized how much plastic water bottles impacted our planet. Since learning this, I not only have one reusable water bottle, I now have about four–not even including the multitude of mugs and tumblers I keep in my room. Starting this year, all first-year students have received a free reusable water bottle which makes it so easy to help WashU become plastic free. Instead of stocking up on those disposable water bottles, just go fill up your reusable bottle at one of the many refill stations!
Ride with Lime Bike
WashU recently partnered with Lime, a bike rental service that allows anyone with the Lime app to locate, unlock, and ride a bike! It’s commonly said that WashU feels like a “bubble” and it’s hard to get off campus. With Lime, you not only get the opportunity to explore areas like the Delmar Loop or Forest Park, but you’re helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding driving a car. So, grab a few friends and a few bikes, and venture off campus to discover your new home city! Don’t forget to sign up with your wustl.edu email address to benefit from a 50% discount on pedal bikes ($.50 per half hour), and to park at a rack on campus!
Learn the Campus Waste Sorting Rules
You’ve probably noticed the signs hanging above the trash bins on campus. Those signs are meant to direct us through the university waste sorting guidelines, or what should and should not be placed into each bin. For someone like myself that didn’t know the ins and outs of proper waste disposal, those signs became really helpful in my journey to become zero-waste. Pop quiz: Paper to-go boxes, plastic utensils and coffee cups – what do these items have in common? None of these items are recyclable, though they are often put in recycling. Paper to-go boxes are compostable, however. Composting allows us to divert organic waste by converting it into fertilizer.
So, take the time to read the signs and if you have a doubt, place it in the landfill. It’s better to throw it away than to take the risk to contaminate a clean recycling or composting load! Sorting your waste properly may not feel like you’re doing much, but you’re really helping WashU reach a major sustainability goal.
I hope these few tips have made the idea of having an impact at WashU more tangible and realistic. You don’t need to make huge life changes to better our environment; a few adjustments from all the members of our community can really make big strides in helping our University in its journey to be more sustainable.