Being a student can come with hidden costs to the environment. Supplies often take a toll on the environment because they end up in landfills or are produced with toxic chemicals, and commuting and technology have impacts. This is why an environmentally conscious student is essential to make the earth a sustainable place to live.
1. Picking an eco-friendly commute
To start each school day, a student first needs to get to campus. Walking or biking is the most eco-friendly ways of commuting if available. Unfortunately for many students, travelling on foot isn’t possible due to the distance or weather. Driving is only available for senior high school and university students who can afford vehicles, however, it comes with harmful environmental consequences. Driving alone releases greenhouse gases and causes others to produce more greenhouse gases because it increases traffic congestion with the number of cars on the road. Carpooling and bussing are two great solutions.
2. Eco-friendly school supplies
In order to succeed, every student needs supplies. While purchasing supplies seems relatively simple (many schools provide a list of necessary supplies that can be purchased at one store), many of these products are made with unsustainable materials that harm the environment.
- Writing tools:
Markers and whiteboard pens are often made with non-recyclable aluminium or plastics with toxic ink. There are a few options for sustainable pens: the first are pens made from recycled materials with non-toxic ink, the second ones are semi-recycled pens which are refillable, therefore cutting down on waste. These are just a couple of examples. Pricewise, these eco-friendly options are nearly double the price of normal pens right now, making sustainability a privilege. However, the more mainstream these eco-friendly products become, the less costly they will be.
Another opportunity to use an eco-friendly alternative can be seen with notebooks. Every student needs to take notes but that leads to approximately 34 billion pieces of paper being used in schools worldwide every year. This eco-friendly school supply store sells notebooks made only from recycled materials with other benefits including minimal packaging, natural resources and soy-based inks.
3. Eco-friendly backpacks
Students often replace backpacks every 2-4 years, depending on the quality and cost of the bag. Did you know backpacks can often remain in landfills for years? Most backpacks are produced with toxic materials such as PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and chemical dye. Cheaply made backpacks are not sustainable because they have to be replaced more frequently than well-made products. Two things to look out for in an eco-friendly bag are longevity and materials used. Sustainable materials include recycled materials, which can be used for more extended periods of time. A relatively new compound material commonly found in “green backpacks” is made primarily from recycled nylon waste and is called ECONYL. Although nylon is considered an unsustainable material, this is a great way to reuse it and repurpose it from existing products.
4. Eco-friendly tech
An essential part of being a modern-day student—especially during COVID-19 school closures—means using technology daily. While providing ease, convenience and simple transportation of work, technology has its downsides. The harmful factors of electronics include toxic waste, unrenewable resource use, and energy consumption. To reduce energy consumption, students may use a smart strip; unplug charging cords after use; use a charger only when needed; and buy Energy Star compliant products. To reduce waste, it is essential to recycle tech properly at a recycling facility and some companies will even offer benefits for doing so.
5. Eco-friendly clothing
When preparing for the first day of school, many students spend time picking an outfit for the day. Being both fashionable and eco-friendly can be difficult, but not impossible. When looking for an eco-friendly item of clothing, it is important to find out if that product is natural. Natural resources (like wool or linen) are the most sustainable, and products made from non-renewable resources like polyester or nylon should be avoided. Although some of the sustainable materials require more resources (like water) upfront and have higher prices, they are more durable and save you money in the long run. Buying second-hand clothing is another great option.