20 ways for you to be eco-friendly as a Columbia student

By Alexandra Yetter, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Columbia is known, in part, for its civic engagement and passion. On campus, unlike anywhere else in this city, someone can walk down the street and hear students discussing their most recent SoundCloud EP, while on the next block people are debating the role of
gender politics.

However, there is one area where South Loop creatives often fall short—sustainability.

If a student were to peek inside compost bins and battery recycling containers—like I do, because yes, I am nosy like that—they’d find them empty. Even the garbage chutes at dorms like the Dwight Lofts can be found full of recyclables.

Of course, I am also guilty of using a plastic straw here and there, or occasionally indulging in a long shower. But as the next generation, we need to be better than our predecessors and much of our current political leadership when it comes to sustainability initiatives, lest we forge the planet into something more closely resembling Mustafar (remember, that is the planet of lava where Obi Wan Kenobi left Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a Darth Vader, to be burned alive in “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith”).

As a college that prides itself on civic engagement, we the students should be at the forefront of the sustainability conversation, especially in a state working to pass its own extended version of the Green New Deal and a city rated among the most eco-friendly in the nation.

Not only must we work to change our personal habits surrounding sustainability, but we also need to keep our peers, professors, departments, school and our industries accountable for their actions.

Without further ado, here are 20 ways you can be eco-friendly as a student at Columbia:

Shane Tolentino

1. Use a reusable coffee cup for your 8 a.m. caffeine jolt.

2. Carry reusable water bottles and refill at water stations on campus.

3. Don’t Uber—walk or take CTA.

4. Compost the remnants of your 3 a.m. Devil Dawgs run.

Shane Tolentino

5. Recycle. Just do it.

6. Learn what you can and can’t recycle—pizza boxes are compostable, not recyclable.

7. Take reusable containers to restaurants for your leftover food.

8. Use reusable tote bags, not plastic bags (it is cheaper and eco-friendly).

Shane Tolentino

9. Reuse or donate art materials leftover from projects.

10. At the cafeteria, only take what you’re actually going to eat. You can always go back for more.

11. Try going vegetarian or vegan, at least a few days per week (cutting down on red meat intake alone can actually make a huge difference in reducing the carbon footprint).

12. Shop at thrift stores, and only buy leather or furs secondhand (this one is for the fashionistas).

Shane Tolentino

13. Buy sustainable clothing.

14. Say “No!” to plastic straws. Love straws? Pick up a stainless steel or bamboo reusable one online.

15. Stop ordering stuff from Amazon you don’t really need. Amazon uses a ton of plastic packaging.

16. Turn off lights or other electronics when you’re not using them.

Shane Tolentino

17. Take the train home for the holidays instead of a plane (long train rides are perfect for writing artsy poems).

18. Grocery shop in bulk using mason jars or stainless steel containers (Mason jars are very “in” right now).

19. Make parties zero waste by having everyone bring their own cups.

20. Join an environmental club to educate students on the climate crisis and how to save the planet.