Sustainability is becoming more and more important every day. Individual people can only do so much (as big corporations are responsible for the vast majority of our climate problems), but to tackle climate change, we need to collectively prioritize green living and sustainability in our everyday lives. It is a challenge, and to help you make your studying habits more sustainably, we've gathered some tips and tricks in this article.
Something that you probably don’t need as a reminder for, because most people do this anyway, is to digitize your studies and reduce paper waste. Not only is it easier to keep all your stuff organized this way, it also saves a large amount of paper. If you are one of those people who doesn’t mind studying out of a digital book, consider purchasing that instead of the paper version you’ll only use once and never again. Buying your study materials second hand is also a good option. Check out BookSpot for secondhand textbooks in the Netherlands. You can also check out if your school’s library has a copy you can borrow.
You can also study at uni or in groups to save on energy costs. I know, I know, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s more energy efficient to heat/light/power a big building with a lot of people in it than to do so for a bunch of small buildings with only one person in it.
Also consider switching the digital services you use to more eco-friendly alternatives. Use Tab for a cause or Ecosia search engine for example! I know, we all bow to our Google overlords and Google Scholar is truly a lifesaver while studying, but you can really make an impact by switching up your daily habits (bonus points if you move away from big corp). Tab for a cause is a browser extension that donates the revenue they generate with displaying ads on every new tab to charity. Ecosia is a green search engine that does something similar, they use search ad revenue to plant trees.
The most obvious tip is no more take-away coffee. Can’t do without your daily dose of caffeine? Start bringing your own cup to uni. By purchasing an eco-friendly coffee mug and using it twice a day for five days of classes, you can prevent over 500 paper or plastic coffee cups from ending up in landfill. Bonus: most coffee places offer you a discount for bringing your own cup. Double score.
In the same vain: BYOFood. In western countries, we throw out almost 100 KG of packaged food per person per year. Not only is that a huge waste of food, but also of packaging. Cook a little extra the night before or make sure you have basics like bread and cheese so you can bring your own lunch. Package it in reusable containers (bonus points if they are glass, metal or BPA free plastic) and bring your own cutlery too. If you make sure to pack everything inside a(n insulated) bag, you can make sure your dirty cutlery doesn’t touch your books, but still save a plastic spoon or knife. Same for water, either drink straight from the water fountain or tap or bring a reusable bottle.
In the Netherlands, it’s easy to go green with your transportation habits. Get on that bike and get some fresh air! Public transportation is also a good alternative, but if you know how to ride a bike but tend to skip out because of laziness or weather, try to get into the cycling habit anyway. Invest in a good raincoat and you’ll never pay for a bus ride again, save tons of emissions on a yearly basis and get some exercise.
Besides changing basic habits to more sustainable ones, becoming an activist for a greener world is one of the biggest impacts you can have. Tell your friends about all your super easy sustainable habits and encourage them to participate. Take an afternoon and research your uni’s sustainability projects and initiatives. For example: Utrecht University no longer sells single-use plastic waterbottles. Most of policies like this one are initiated by the uni’s Green Office. Join a club, Facebook Group, stay informed, and maybe most importantly: VOTE! Vote for green parties in your national or local/regional elections.
I hope I have inspired you at least a little to greenify your habits and have made you aware of some new tips or initiatives you can start using!