LETTER: How small changes can make a big difference in your carbon footprint

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A recycling bin and garbage can are located by a sidewalk on the K-State campus. Here are a few tips to shrink your carbon footprint while in college. (File Photo by Dene Dryden | Collegian Media Group)

Why should I care about the waste that I produce? Does it really make a difference compared to the billions of people who don’t try to change their own wasteful habits? How am I supposed to change my waste production? It’s too expensive.

These are some of the many thoughts I had after climbing out of the YouTube wormhole of zero waste vlogs and tips and tricks videos. I, like many of you, felt kind of hopeless after watching these videos. I love the planet, I’m grateful for the beauty I get to look at every day, but is there really anything I can do?

The answer: yes.

It is true that we are running out of time to reverse some effects of climate change, but small, simple and inexpensive life changes are a great way to make a difference in our community and the world.

1. Ditch the straws.

I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times. But it really does make a difference. Over five hundred million plastic straws are used and trashed every single day in the U.S. It’s a super easy change to make, too. You know that little cubby in between the seats in your car full of loose napkins and condiment packages? Throw a little reusable straw in there. They’re super cheap and you can get a ton of different colors and materials. Next time you go through the drive-thru, politely say that you don’t need a straw. Most of the time, people actually get super excited that you’re denying to participate in producing that waste.

2. Buy reusable grocery bags.

The U.S. uses over 100 billion plastic bags every year, and less than one percent of those are recycled — these are scary numbers. Think about the difference you could make if you decided to buy even one reusable bag to take with you to the store. When I first started to make the change to reusable bags, I noticed that I would forget the bag and have to use plastic bags anyways. One way that I helped myself get into the habit was to not allow myself to use plastic bags. I would do my shopping and then force myself to carry all of my purchases all the way to my car. This worked especially well for me because I don’t enjoy looking like an idiot trying to carry a whole watermelon along with all my other groceries all the way across the parking lot. You can also support online entrepreneurs like Package Free and Wild Minimalist who put cool art on tote bags. Also, if you do have plastic bags, most stores have plastic bag drop-offs where they can be recycled and reused.

3. Don’t buy new clothes.

Okay, I feel like I can be honest here: I’m a severe shopaholic. I love buying new clothes. But, we need to remember that we vote with our dollars. When I buy that cute new sweater at Target, I’m telling Target that we need more, then Target uses more materials to make another sweater. When you buy from thrift stores, you aren’t supporting companies making more clothes and wasting more materials. You can also find a lot of really cute stuff that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Thrift stores are a great way to shop cheap and sustainably. Along the lines of buying clothes, be aware of who you’re buying from. Lot’s of big, popular companies still use sweatshops to produce their products. Some of these brands are Adidas, ASOS, Disney, H&M, GAP, and Victoria’s Secret. The internet is a great resource to find sustainable and ethical brands that support good working conditions and produce beautiful and affordable clothing.

4. Avoid single use plastics.

No, I’m not just talking about water bottles. I’m talking about candy, chips, sodas, produce bags, etc. I totally understand that craving for spicy Doritos. I also understand caffeine addictions. There are ways to avoid producing so much waste. Buy a reusable water bottle or coffee mug and fill it up with your favorite drink at the gas station or convenience store on your way to class. Instead of buying a bunch of tiny chip bags, buy a family pack and put it in a plastic bag when you pack your lunch. Don’t forget to reuse that plastic bag throughout the week. Washing it with a little soap and water works wonders on helping to reduce waste. You can also buy reusable silicone sandwich bags online on sites like Package Free and Stasher. If you have plastic bags though, don’t throw them away, get as much use out of them as you can. If you buy produce at the store there are tons of mesh bags that you can buy online to use when you go shopping. Or, if you already have plastic produce bags from a previous shopping trip, reuse them as much as you can. Every change that you make to reduce your waste is a positive one.

Hopefully some of these tips are new to you and will help you start your journey towards a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle. These changes may be small and simple, but the amount of waste that is avoided with making these changes is so worth it. It will make the planet healthier, and lessen your negative impact on the planet. Also, don’t be afraid to look on the internet for awesome resources to find out how you can make more of a difference.

Rose Kroll is a sophomore in psychology. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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