No seriously, have you? — hugged a tree, kissed the ground, planted a shrub? Anything? Seriously? Well then, dismissing the irony that this article probably found its way into your hands via paper copy, stay tuned for a list of reasonable sustainable changes you could be making to your campus living to make up for any critical lack of tree-hugging and earth-loving and interact with this article to be featured in a special follow-up edition.
Picture this scene: under a beautiful University American Elm – or it might not have been, since I’m not really a tree enthusiast – sits a Bucknellian author with fabulous hair (remember this detail for later) and the perfect pair of vintage Harley Davidson leather boots on her feet (hold on to this for later as well) sitting at a picnic table, little more than 10 paces from the Elaine Langone Center. They wait for some Earth Day inspiration. As you’re about to find out, I found plenty of it. Sitting at a table within earshot of my own was another student, basking in the University campus glow.
So before I continue, I want to describe a few key aspects of this scene, and before I can offend anyone, these are not assumptions I am making about another person – but rather, self assertions given to me by this student who also gave full consent to everything you will soon read. I have respected wishes to remain anonymous where requested. Okay, now those key aspects: she is wearing a really cool vintage-y looking ragged and starting to fade T-shirt, portraying a cartoon recycle sign with a face and hat dancing on a cartoon Earth that reads “keep her clean.” As it was confirmed to me, this shirt was indeed thrifted locally. The backpack she wore had several patches on it, one of which was a recycle sign and another was an image of a tree and the words “Earth Day” on it. So after taking notice of these things, the conclusion I’ve reached – one you no doubt have reached as well – is that this University sophomore is the woodland fairy of my dreams who’s going to help me formulate my Earth Day article. But here comes that good old Oliver Twist. She hates Earth Day. I know, I know, just a few lines up I mentioned the Earth Day patch, but I’m not kidding – totally against it. Not a fan. She does not like Earth Day. Go figure.
And here was her explanation, “Earth Day should be every day. Why do we only think about and care for our planet only one day out of the year?” Despite my being fairly shocked by this for a while, we talked for some time on the subject before going our separate ways, after which I couldn’t help but look up if she was alone in this thinking. I’m an Environmentalist and I Hate Earth Day was an article published by the Detroit Free Press in 2019, and the gist is rather similar to this (self-proclaimed) flower child.
Alright then, flower child from the University and environmentalist of the Detroit Free Press, you’ve presented a solid argument- but here’s my counter: Do you celebrate a birthday? Presents? Cake? Money-filled envelopes from your relatives or somewhat hollow well wishes from your grump of a coworker? Or, depending on what birthday you’re celebrating, an unwelcome but somewhat festive card from the friendly people at AARP? If any of these apply then you do in fact celebrate a birthday and I would hardly believe either of you, a student from the University or a columnist from Detroit, in saying that the other 364 days of the year you are completely forgotten about or deliberately ignored.
My point is essentially that, while I understand the argument that every day should be a new stride towards a better or greener world, we are not always going to have our reusable metal straw on hand or remember our reusable mesh shopping bag before leaving for GIANT, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. Yes, Earth Day is one specific day but we don’t just forget the ground we stand on when the day’s done and start littering our trash because the calendar says it’s fine to do so. So here’s my thought on the matter; every day is a new day with new responsibilities, new challenges, attempts and failures and you don’t have to donate your entire paycheck to the melting ice or dumpster dive for that one plastic spoon your roommate mistakenly threw into the trash bin to be conscious of our shared earth. There are small, but impactful things each student can do to collectively bring about change. There’s no need to force sustainability into every casual conversation you have or trade-in your current car for a Nissan Leaf to feel good about the change you can make. And if you’re in need of some creative and practical ways to start making those small changes then here are our picks for the top easy changes for students that will either save on money or save space in cramped dorms.
Wool dryer balls. Consider making the change from regular dryer sheets to reusable wool dryer balls. They cost anywhere from six to 10 dollars, can be found on Amazon or at Walmart and last upwards of 1,000 uses. As someone who uses them personally, I would attest to the product’s claim that they can dry clothes quicker than a typical dryer sheet and I won’t be needing to replace them for the next several years.
Better detergent. A more eco-friendly detergent could include either Dropps, a sustainably packaged detergent, or my personal favorite, Earth Breeze, a biodegradable detergent sheet. You can buy a box of 64-count Dropps detergent pods for $26 for a single purchase or $19.50 for a recurring subscription to the company. This box is lightweight, compostable or recyclable and takes up far less room in small spaced dorms than the typical bottle of liquid detergent that we all know could be interchanged with a piece of heavy gym equipment. The Earth Breeze sheets take up even less space and arrive in a box not much bigger than the common wallet. I will also mention that the subscription to this product saves on average five cents per load over a bottle of Tide per load.
Beeswax wraps. Another reasonable option for being more sustainable on campus would include using reusable, washable beeswax wraps to store leftover foods. Packs of these can range anywhere from four to 12 dollars, whereas a box of one-time use ziplock bags will run you just under 13 dollars. This is a beautiful example of when sustainability coincides with economic benefit.
And finally, a few tips and tricks on being sustainable on campus from yours truly that actually save on money. I’ll keep these short and snappy. We’re charged for every use of the washing and dryer machines on campus — so only run full loads. This will work to save on water and electricity. Secondly, if you have a meal plan on campus that includes swipes to the caf — take everything that you can carry since it’s all included in the price for that meal plan anyway. Bring a tote or other reusable bag and grab all the products you can off of the shelves instead of spending money at places like Walmart. And if you eat cereal in your dorm or just like the taste of milk, do not purchase it from stores. It will come in bulky plastic containers and you can always bring a reusable cup and fill it with milk from the dispensers at the caf to save for later. Lastly, for those who have remembered an earlier comment on the state of my hair, and have made it to the end, still waiting for that explanation I alluded to, here is where this seemingly self-serving remark should now make a little more sense. One of my favorite tips for living a little more sustainably is by reducing a small bit of plastic consumption and using shampoo and conditioner bars, which take up far less space in a shower caddy than typical liquid hair products. My personal favorite is a brand called Viori, working to reduce plastic consumption a little bit at a time. Ah hah — now you get that hair comment, don’t you? You might now also remember a comment about my sense in footwear which, yes, might have a touch of self-serving attitude, but also serves a purpose. This is my attempt at selling you on the idea of thrifting rather than always buying new, and in making my point all the stronger, this particular pair was found at one of the local Selinsgrove thrift stores. This saves on money and is a great way to give life to old clothing.
With small and convenient changes to the way you live on campus and a pretty good game plan on how and where to get started, as mentioned above, that leaves only one question: what’s stopping you from making a difference?
Did we miss any good campus tricks to living sustainably on a budget? Leave a comment on this article, Have you Hugged a Tree Today’s page on the Bucknellian’s website to be featured in the following issue with your idea.