Sometimes going green is seen as something that is expensive and elitist, and while this can be true in some cases, I am a firm believer that we all can contribute to the earth in meaningful ways. Below are four free ways you can contribute to sustaining our environment.
1. Refresh your recycling rules
I think it's safe to say we've all been recycling for years now, but it's never a bad idea to brush up on your local recycling rules. Both the City of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico have detailed guides on recycling on their websites. If your apartment hasn't invested in a recycling bin for your building or complex, make the commitment to collect and drop off your recycling yourself, which can also be done at UNM's Recycling Service Yard on South campus. The main thing I always remind myself of is to rinse my food-contaminated recycling. Not only do workers (sometimes machines) sort through all of our recycled trash once we dispose of it, but the moisture of contaminated recycling can cause mold and mildew, which can potentially cause an entire bale of recyclable materials to be thrown away. Scrubbing isn't necessary, but give your cans and drinks a rinse before you recycle them.
2. Carry around reusable utensils and drink-wear
The zero-waste movement is about reducing the amount of trash that goes into landfills. While it can sound extreme, any action to reduce the amount of trash you use in a day contributes to the zero-waste movement. A great place to start is reducing the trash you use on campus everyday, which for me normally comes from eating. It is pretty easy to get your hands on a free reusable water bottle and reusable mug if you go to free events on campus. Take fork and spoon from your kitchen and keep them in your backpack so you can refuse plastic utensils when getting takeout.
3. Refuse ALL shopping bags.
Reusable shopping totes are another object that you can find for free at many events on campus. Refusing shopping bags at the grocery store is a good start, but bringing a reusable bag on shopping trips for clothes or other essentials is something I often forget. Keeping a couple bags in the car can help with this, and I always keep an extra bag in my backpack as well. Sometimes when I go clothes or makeup shopping, the shopping bag as well as a on of extra tissue paper are included in the bag. Skip it all and bring your own.
4. Buy less stuff - reduce, reuse and repurpose.
This is by far is the most affordable thing you can do on this list to reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint. Our culture of consumption teaches us to always want the next new thing, and manufacturing practices like planned obsolescence don't help us reduce our consumption either. Manufacturing these items, however, whether it be clothes, phones or household products, takes up a lot of energy and resources—it takes around 1,800 gallons of water to produce a new pair of blue jeans. Before you go out and buy that next new thing, look at what you already have, and ask if it can be repaired or repurposed. If you do have add a new addition to your life, try buying second hand first.
Sophia Sambrano is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @sambsoph.