Along with countless alumni before me, I have recently joined the "college is the best four (five? six?) years of your life" club. In addition to the obvious -- getting a great education, forming lifelong relationships, partying and a multitude of other life-changing experiences -- college is also the perfect time to start living greener. If you manage to find some time between studying, sleeping and socializing to become a bit of a tree-hugger, here are some easy ideas.
1) Walk, bike, carpool and use buses. As a college student, there's a good chance almost everything you do is in close proximity. Depending on the size of your campus, it's usually easy enough to get from place to place by walking, biking or hopping on the bus. (Walking and biking also help ward off the infamous Freshman 15, which, unfortunately, is not a myth.) If you live far enough from campus that you have to drive, try to carpool with roommates or friends.
2) Go with used. For a lot of people, college is all about experimentation, and of course the clichéd "finding yourself." Those two concepts can permeate into pretty much all aspects of college life, and stocking your dorm room or apartment is no exception. Since college spans a period of four or more years, most likely you're going to "find" that your style changes with time. Instead of going out and buying new things with every whim or phase you experience, try buying gently used products to fill up your living space. There are always older students or local people trying to sell great furniture and household items for reduced prices, as well as thrift stores and websites like freecycle.org. Making use of these resources saves you from regrettably buying overpriced items that you become sick of in a short time, not to mention saving you money. (Alas, the "poor college student" is also not a myth.)
3) Print double-sided. With so much of class content being online these days, there's a lot of printing involved in class prep. If you must print, do our forests a favor and print on both sides of the paper. If it's just for your personal use and not to turn in, such as PowerPoint slides or notes your professor posted online, using both sides of the paper saves not only trees, but space in your notebook or binder. It also helps conserve paper to make the font smaller and shrink your margins so more content fits onto a page. You'll save paper and trees, as well as your (or your parents') money on paper and ink. Everyone wins.
4) Recycle. Seems obvious, but it needs to be said. College is one of the easiest times to get into a good habit about recycling. It's tempting to get lazy about it, but you can save that for Monday morning at 8 when you don't want to get up for class. From water bottles to beer cans, Easy Mac packaging to old notes, tests, quizzes, reports and papers, there's a lot of waste generated in dorm rooms and college apartments. Most schools have recycling facilities on campus, and if you live off-campus, many cities have curbside pickup. If you don't see anywhere to recycle, ask.
5) Use a laptop instead of a desktop. In addition to being about 8 billion times more convenient, laptops consume up to four times less energy than similarly equipped desktops. Need I say more? Get a laptop; save a great deal of energy, and be able to access class material (or, let's be honest, Facebook) from anywhere.
6) Reuse your school supplies. For some of us, buying a huge list of new school stuff every year might have gone out the window after elementary school, but for many students it's still part of the practice each semester. As much fun as those trips to the supply store are, recess is over and so should be this tradition. If you're a spiral notebook kind of guy/girl, most of the time there's perfectly good blank paper left over after one semester's worth of notes. And if you're more of a binder-and-filler-paper type (which I was), it's even easier. Keep the binder, and then it's just out with the old (notes), in with the new. And of course, if you're not saving them for future reference, instead of throwing them in the trash, remember to recycle your old notes, tests, quizzes and doodles from last semester.
7) Make sure laundry and dishwasher loads are full. If you manage to overcome the go-out-to-eat-for-every-meal and take-your-laundry-home-to-the-parents temptations, congratulations. When you do muster the strength to wash clothes and/or dishes (or are forced into it by necessity), make sure you only run full loads. Don't waste a whole load just for a few items (if you think you desperately need a clothing item and it's in the hamper, there's always good old Febreze to freshen it up). Running one load of laundry uses about 40 gallons of water in a conventional washing machine, and the dishwasher uses between eight and 15. Make sure you're not wasting all those precious gallons without filling the machines to capacity. Also, use cold water. Ninety percent of the energy a washing machine uses goes to heating the water. If you're worried about cold water not cleaning the clothes well enough, there are new cold-water-specific detergents made by brands like Tide and Purex.
8) Sell your used books back to your bookstore. Your textbooks probably aren't exactly treasures to you. Environmentally speaking, by setting them free you're helping out by letting someone else reuse something that has already been produced. Unless you need them for future reference, go ahead and send those pricey things back into circulation. Personally speaking, this concept rocks because you get cash out of it. Most bookstores, as well as certain websites like amazon.com and half.com, are buying back textbooks these days, and with how outrageously expensive they've become, it's nice to get something back.
9) Buy a keg instead of individual bottles or cans. So it's time to celebrate Mardi Gras. Or it's a football weekend. Or you're going to a concert. Or...it's Wednesday night. Whatever the reason may be, it's college, and you're probably going to party from time to time (assuming you're 21...right?). Well, in case you're serving beer at this over-21 shindig, think about buying a keg instead of a bunch of cans or bottles. Standard U.S. kegs contain 15.5 gallons, which equals about 165 12-ounce beers. That's a lot of aluminum or glass you're wasting with single-use containers. Kegs, which are reusable, cut down considerably on the waste generated by your birthday/Halloween/Flag Day party. If you simply must go the bottle or can route, instead of throwing them away the next day (or two weeks later), recycle them. And if you do decide to embrace the tree-hugger in you and use a keg, continue the theme with recycled paper cups.