Sustainability and Me: How to be a sustainable college student

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By Shereen Toolabi, USM EcoRep

As the semester comes to an end and I finish up my undergraduate career, I realized that throughout my four years at USM I have come to live more sustainably.

As an environmental science major and Eco-Rep with the Office of Sustainability, sustainability has become ingrained in my daily life and I have come to realize that many college students do not have green living at the forefront of their minds. What is priority in our minds are our studies, involvement with student activities and work/social/academic life balance.

However, what most might not know is that living an “eco-friendly” life can actually save you money, which as a college student, is also really important. Reducing your carbon footprint is an added benefit.

So, as someone who survived four years of college, I’d like to pass along some words of wisdom about how to live sustainably.

Take Advantage of Public Transportation

As a student, you can ride any Greater Portland METRO bus for free with your USM ID. This includes the Husky Line which has stops at both the Gorham and Portland campus. Not only will you save on gas but you will save on your parking pass too!

Invest in Reusable Product

While the initial investment may be unappealing, having a reusable water bottle, coffee mug, shopping bag, or to-go container can save you money. On all USM campuses by bringing a reusable beverage container, you will spend less on single-use plastic beverage bottles and can instead drink from the tap. Sodexo also gives a discount for bringing your own mug for coffee or tea!

Reduce and Reuse

Every fall, the Office of Sustainability hosts a “Free Yard Sale.” When you move in this fall, make sure to stop by. There is everything from rugs to shower caddies to bed risers. By “shopping” here first, you will save money on products you would have otherwise purchased new. Throughout the year, on the Gorham campus you can also stop at the USM Free Store in Lower Brooks where you can find everything you need and more, all for free! If you find you have clothing or other housewares you no longer want, you can also donate them at the Free Store for other students to use. By reducing what you bring and purchase on campus you help the university reach its 2040 carbon neutrality goal.

Save Paper

Instead of taking notes on paper, try taking notes on a computer or tablet. Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you will also be saving money by not purchasing notebooks, loose leaf paper, and flashcards!

Buy a Plant

Indoor air quality is important and many plants help purify the air. Many of these plants are low-maintenance and can help you get through the winter months when everything is grey.
I hope these tips will help you start living a more sustainable lifestyle throughout college and beyond. If you want to learn more about sustainability and get involved at USM, visit https://usm.maine.edu/sustainability to learn more.

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