I survived four years at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., living as a green (Read: poor) student. To help incoming students, here are some green lifestyle tips:
You’re going to need things:
Discarded items line the sidewalks of Indiana’s college towns every May and August, as leases end and begin. Fraternity pledges haul couches in Roman phalanx formation as part of the autonomous waste ecosystem that supports college life. Participate cautiously in the Great Waste Migration, and don’t expect to find any iPads (But call us if you do!)
You can, however, expect working lamps, clean dishware, iPod docks, phone chargers and even furniture. Ask a friend with a truck for help, or just carry it yourself. Be sure to check for the smells, stains and structural damage before taking anything home. A thorough cleansing can turn any garbage futon into a cherished member of your living room.
You’re going to use things:
Look for a recycling program in your area. If your campus hasn’t shown initiative start a group that will. You’re never alone on issues in college and one resource at any university is consistently under-utilized: dreamy-eyed students with free time.
Start composting your food waste. Search for composting guides and get neighbors involved. Talk to your landlord about the benefits for the soil and the reduction in sewage bills. Grow a garden if you have the space. Since many college rentals exist on a year-to-year basis you may have to focus on short-term crops and herbs.
You’re going to read things:
Tablet PCs and other vehicles for information are available for tech-savvy students. These range widely in price and quality, but an e-reader is going to save time and money (Provided you don’t go app-crazy), as well as paper and forests.
Look for used books around campus. Older students are more than willing to sell the eighty-pound books that they’ve hauled around. Share costs with a classmate and set up a schedule to study together in the library. Even if ‘studying’ includes cell phones, Facebook and Netflix, at least you can tell your parents that you’ve been to the library.
You’re going to get hungry:
Find out where a farmers’ market is held. These can be pricey so plan meals with friends and share the cost, cooking and cleaning responsibilities. If you’re not sure what’s local or organic at the grocery store, ask. If you go out to eat stick with locally-owned places that support the farms around you.
You’re going to want to party:
It’s got something to do with hormones. Remember to buy local, use recyclable party supplies and hold attendees to the strict environmental standards you hold yourself to. Drinking local can be tricky. Visit the locally-owned dives and ask about what’s on tap. You’ll feel better sipping on something with a high environmental grade (Even if your grades pale in comparison).
You’re going to go to places:
Bring your bike. You know the one, in the back of the garage, hanging between your posters of Larisa Oleynik and Aldo Leopold. Dust it off, fill the tires and ride. Or maybe you want something new, like the specialized frames that some use or the fixed-gears that a generation of DIY-ers love.
Buses and trains are fantastic ways to get around campus, town and meet people. A veteran of public transportation can impress others by standing without handrails, showcasing incredible balance (A valuable impression to make, especially with all those hormones).
If all else fails, walking is still honest.
You’re going to want to come home:
Probably to celebrate Earth Day with your loved ones. Gather friends and fit into a fuel efficient vehicle, then let the sing-a-long begin. If you live farther than most, consider green ways to get there without breaking the bank (Or our Ozone-layer).