The environment might not be the number one thing most students spend time thinking about but the truth is that wherever there are people, local ecosystems are affected even on our campuses. So, how can you incorporate a little green-mindedness into your daily student life, and help to create a more sustainable campus? Here are a few ways to get started.                                                                               

For the sustainability you don’t yet know.

How to be more sustainable on campus

Written by David Lelouche

Edited by Olivia Lafreniere

2021-09-12

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The environment might not be the number one thing most students spend time thinking about but the truth is that wherever there are people, local ecosystems are affected even on our campuses. So, how can you incorporate a little green-mindedness into your daily student life, and help to create a more sustainable campus? Here are a few ways to get started.

1. Stop using disposable items

One of the biggest sources of waste are disposable items such as plastic forks, knives, spoons, cups, water bottles, and everything else which gets used once and then tossed in the trash. Usually, things made of paper are biodegradable, but most disposables composed of plastic are not which means they can sit in landfills for hundreds of years before breaking down. It can be tempting to save yourself the chore of having to wash dishes but by sticking to permanent reusable plates and cups, you’ll be living much more sustainably and also save some money in the long run.

My tip is to find yourself a nice reusable water bottle that you like and know will motivate you to bring it with you everywhere instead of buying water every time you go out. In Montreal, we are lucky enough to have safe potable water provided by the municipality which makes relying on a single-use bottled water unnecessary.  In the long run your reusable water bottle will spare the environment from the fossil fuels required to produce and transport bottled water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you are looking for some cool reusable water bottles, I’ve compiled a list to get you started

  •   Klean Kanteen: Certified B Corp; Supports 1% for the Planet; Climate Neutral Certified; BPA-free. (Dishwasher Safe)
  •   Hydro Flask: Supports Parks For All; BPA-free. (Dishwasher Safe)
  •   S’well: Certified B Corp; BPA-free; Supports UNICEF clean water initiatives and Lonely Whale (Triple- insulated and dishwasher safe)

2. Buy second-hand, buy local, and re-sell

Most student dorms come semi-furnished, however, you may want to add a few more items like a rug, frames and a couch to make you feel at home. Here are some ways to do it in a sustainable way: 

The best option is to buy second-hand items to give items that were supposed to be thrown away a few extra years of life. You will not only save yourself a lot of money but you will also have the satisfaction of having done a good action for the environment. A good place to find second-hand items is on Facebook Marketplace, where you just need to type in the search bar what you are looking for and it will show you all the items matching your search within your desired area radius. This is true for all kinds of items from furniture to clothing! Other websites like Kijiji, Poshmark and depop also offer similar services. The most obvious environmental benefit of second-hand shopping is that we create less waste because by buying something used, we are saving it from the landfills and decreasing demand for new retail goods (especially clothing) creating less pressure on companies to produce large volumes of their merchandise.

If you decide to buy a new item for whatever reason, please try to make sure you do it as locally as possible, to encourage local businesses and create less of a carbon footprint than needing it to be shipped from further away. You also want to make sure that you buy products that are ethically made and demonstrate they care for their impacts on our environment.

Here is a list of labels to look for: 

  • Certified B- Corporation
  • USDA Organic
  • Fair Trade Certified
  • Fair trade Foundation 
  • World Fair Trade Organization
  • Equal Exchange Fairly Traded
  • Fair For Life
  • Fair Minded
  • Certified Vegan 
  • Responsible Down Standard Certified
  • Eco-Cert
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
  • RainForest Alliance 

Finally, when you move out, don’t forget to resell what you don’t need or donate it to charity. JSEC will organize a second-hand event this semester, so keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook page for more updates. 

3 . Don’t get sucked in by student offers

As a student, you often get lots of offers for all kinds of free stuff. I know how difficult it can be to turn something down when it’s free but please try your best not to take things just for the sake of it. My advice is accept what you really want and will use but avoid filling your room with things you know you’ll only end up throwing out. When you go shopping also keep the same mindset and buy only items you really need that way you can reduce your impact on the environment and feel better from having less clutter around you. This is not saying that you should live a minimalist lifestyle and reject all forms of consumerism but rather to be more mindful about what you choose to add to your life and what they can provide for you. We all have a friend that constantly buys things that they don’t need and end up regretting it… Don’t be that friend!

4. Go digital

Whenever possible, take advantage of technology to reduce paper usage. Take notes on your computer, get digital versions of textbooks, and only print things out if you really need to but make sure you remember to back everything up regularly! If digital textbooks aren’t for you, look for used textbooks on the CASA-JMSB Facebook page to save yourself some money and decrease the demand for large quantities of paper textbooks. To have an even bigger impact on creating a sustainable campus, you can encourage classmates and staff to go digital too! Pro tip: Did you know that deleting emails and unsubscribing from spam emails is one of the largest ways to reduce your computer’s carbon footprint? If you have hundreds or thousands or emails in your spam folder, take some time to delete them right away!!

5. Choose the right transportation for you

How do you get to school? Surely you know that driving is not the best option as it can get very expensive and the greenhouse gas emissions are less than desirable. Here are some alternatives that will save you some parking tickets and get you moving after these past few months staying at home.

Riding a bike is one of the most sustainable forms of local transportation around, because the only energy it uses is the amount your legs put into it. It will also help keep you fit and healthy! Who doesn’t want that? Many options exist whether you want to own your own bike (try finding a second-hand one on Marketplace) or whether you want to rent BIXIs around the city. With a BIXI membership, users can purchase short term-access to rent a bike all around Montreal for your convenience (Concordia students can benefit from a discount on BIXI memberships!).

So now you are going to tell me but what about winter you want me to fall in the snow or what? No worries there are other ways to get around during the winter. With bus stops and a metro station directly connected to our downtown campus as well as a shuttle bus between both campus, you’ll be good to go for the winter months. Students can buy a student OPUS card on Myconcordia and purchase their unlimited monthly passes for $54 at any metro station.

Finally, the last but surely the best option if you live close enough to campus, walk! Not only will you get some fresh air that will wake you up before going to your 8:45 am class but you will also burn some calories to stay fit all year long!

This week (September 13th to 19th), Concordia is joining the Defi sans auto solo and invites you to do the same by registering your trips to campus to push yourself to move more sustainably. Students can win prizes like a monthly BIXI pass to an 8-person cabin at La Grande Roue Montreal. Sign up here!

For more information on transportation at Concordia click here!

6 . Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost!

Perhaps the easiest way to create a more sustainable campus is to recycle and compost as much as you can. According to Waste Not Want Not, half of what Concordia sends to landfills could be composted instead! Whether it’s paper, plastic, electronics, clothing, there are better options that throwing them out and we need to do better, together. To reduce your waste and learn how to discard your waste properly on campus, check out these resources! Want to learn more about going zero-waste on campus? Check out Zero-Waste Concordia and the Centre for Creative Reuse (CCR) Don’t forget to encourage your friends to do the same!

 

To read JSEC’s academic guide to sustainability on campus, click here!