We heard it numerous times growing up — “We need to go green.” It was for a significant reason, as taking care of the place we live is essential.
The modern-day Green Movement gained prominence in the ‘50s due to the pollution-related disasters after World War II. Notable figures, such as President Eisenhower, helped create legislation to protect the environment and reduce pollution.
The movement, continuing into the ‘60s, had a significant presence on college campuses, along with the “flower power” hippies who encouraged protecting the earth and living more organic lives. Various pieces of legislation were passed, including the National Environmental Policy Act, National Trails System Act and the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966.
Pushing into the ‘70s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed in response to the growing need to protect the environment.
We may not see our impact on the planet directly, but it is essential to know what helps our planet in order to avoid hurting it. Over the past few years, both university faculty and students have created programs, services and projects to strive for a more sustainable Carolina.
In 2017, former Chancellor Carol L. Folt established the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative, moving the university toward water neutrality, zero waste and greenhouse gas neutrality.
Making more sustainable choices, especially in the midst of a pandemic, is more essential than ever. UNC faculty Grant Parkins and Dana Haine from UNC’s Center for Public Engagement with Science gave us some tips for college students to go green during the pandemic.
Use Chapel Hill’s Free Public Transportation
According to Parkins, UNC students are uniquely positioned to make better choices for the planet. They have many built-in advantages others do not have, like free public transportation around campus and the town of Chapel Hill.
Taking public transportation, rather than driving, will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide put into the air.
Electricity, Water, and Energy – Oh my!
Be mindful of how much electricity, water and energy you use in your home.
Many people don’t think about water usage and how it intertwines with energy usage, Parkins said. All of the water in our homes goes through an intensive energy process to make the water safe to drink. So, if you use less water, you will use less energy.
He also said that wearing a sweatshirt inside rather than turning up the heat would help conserve electricity.
Use LED Light Bulbs
LED lights use only a fraction of the energy an incandescent light bulb uses, and they are way more efficient.
Buy Food Locally, Eat More Vegetables and Eat Less Meat
Purchasing local food has various benefits, such as reducing food miles, genetic diversity, preserving small farm life and promoting further accountability of the consumer on where their food comes from.
Eating less meat and more veggies is impactful in saving the planet. According to the EPA, 9.9% of greenhouse emissions in 2018 come from livestock, such as cows, agricultural soil and rice production.
Reduce Food Waste
Compost, compost and compost.
If you throw away organic waste in your trash, it will head straight to landfills and generate a greenhouse gas called methane. By composting food and other organics, it will reduce methane emissions, as well as reduce and sometimes eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
All UNC dorms, as well as Chase and Lenoir Dining Halls, have the option to compost your waste. Just use the diagrams over the recycle, compost and garbage bins!
Buy Second-hand Clothes and Keep Clothes Longer
Fashion trends change constantly, but contributing to fast fashion in order to keep up is not the answer. Among the environmental impacts of fast fashion are massive usage of water and energy, reduction of non-renewable sources and emissions of greenhouse gases.
There are several thrift stores within and near Chapel Hill, such as Rumors, CommunityWorx Thrift Store and Goodwill.
“[It’s important to get] college students just thinking more about their role as consumers, and how they can be wiser consumers, to both save money and to support their community and address climate change,” Haine said.
Get Involved in Local Environmental Projects
If you are doing all of these already, get involved in your community!
There are several opportunities on campus regarding the environment, climate change, and saving the planet:
- Environmental Justice Group
- Carolina Green Team
- Environmental Affairs Committee of Student Government
- Sustainability Officer in RHA
- Sustainable Triangle Field Site
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