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15 Earth Day Tips for Any College Student

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


April 14, 2023

8 min read

In recognition of Earth Day 2023, we thought it would be fitting to offer 15 Earth Day tips that can be practiced by college students —or anyone at all!

Earth Day has been celebrated every April 22nd since 1970, and the concept would not have succeeded without the environmental activism of college students across this country, working in partnership with forward-thinking policymakers.

So, with a tip of our hat (made of sustainable fabric, of course) to those who began the movement and everyone doing their part to keep it alive today, here are 15 tips for Earth Day.

1. Avoid Single-use Plastics

We’re starting our list of Earth Day tips with plastics. We’ve all become accustomed to the convenience of single-use plastic products like grocery bags, water bottles and utensils, but did you know the environmental impact of these items, including how long they take to decompose, can stretch into decades?

Here are some facts about plastics:

  • Plastic bags from the supermarket can take 10-20 years to decompose. 

  • Every year, an estimated 1.6 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic bottles.

  • Once discarded, those plastic bottles can take 450 years to break down.

How can you help break this cycle? When you head out to the gym or the park, fill up a reusable water bottle. Bring your own bags to the supermarket and when you order take-out, ask them to leave out the plastic utensils or save them to use again. 

2. Volunteer

Taking care of our environment is a civic responsibility. You can do this on your own, with friends or in a community clean-up event. Look for local volunteer clean-up efforts on your social media channels, or if you see an area that cries out for a cleanup – a local park, beach or alongside roadways – grab some gloves and a waste receptacle and get started. Taking care of the environment as part of a group not only does good but can make you feel good and could lead to lasting friendships.

3. Eat Local

Have you ever considered how far food has to travel before it gets to your table? Buying produce at the grocery store sounds like a good idea, but it may not always support local farmers. This is especially true if you’re buying produce that’s considered out of season for your area.

Buying your produce at the local farmer’s market is a great way to eat well while supporting area farmers, but it also has environmental benefits. Because locally grown food travels fewer miles, it contributes to cutting down fossil fuel consumption and creating less air pollution.

When you dine out, patronizing restaurants that buy produce from local farmers is another way to cut down on the number of miles food has to travel, which can result in greater environmental impact.

4. Consider Green Transportation Options

Data shows that 38% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. comes from transportation. When you need to go places, think about the environmental impact of your own transportation habits and consider green alternatives to driving or using a rideshare service. On short trips, walking or cycling is a great way to conserve fuel, help the environment and get your body moving. If you regularly use your own car to commute to work, consider taking public transportation. A bus or subway may be just the ticket to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road and minimize your environmental impact. 

5. Conserve Water

Reducing water waste has several very important environmental benefits. Saving water reduces overall energy demand and air pollution, as it means less strain on wastewater treatment plants. Conserving water also protects natural bodies of water – the reservoirs, rivers and lakes that are the source of our water supplies. If we reduce water waste, we can help protect these bodies of water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, half of all water use in the home takes place in the bathroom. Taking brief showers instead of baths helps to save water, as does not letting the water run when you brush your teeth. Consider shutting it off while you’re brushing, then turning it back on when rinsing.

Washing dishes and doing laundry can also be big water-wasters. Instead of rinsing dishes under running water, wipe food waste into the trash before putting them in the dishwasher. Waiting to run the dishwasher until you have a full load can also help reduce using excess water. When doing the laundry, be sure to select the right water level for your load and consolidating the number of loads of laundry you do each week. 

6. Eat Less Meat

According to the environmental advocates at Greenpeace, the livestock sector now generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all the cars and trucks on the planet combined. Reducing our meat consumption by shifting to more plant-based foods can help to combat climate change, soil, air and water pollution.

Another environmental benefit to a plant-based diet is that it requires much less water. The Vegetarian Society reports that  a chicken breast takes more than 735 liters of water to produce.  That’s enough water to fill up a bathtub more than once.

What can you do? Try cutting down on meat consumption by making meatless Monday part of your meal planning routine. Replacing meat with plant-based choices once or twice each week can help fight climate change by help you reduce your carbon footprint and conserve resources.

7. Unplug Your Devices

Devices left plugged in, even if they’re turned off or in sleep mode, still consume power. Although the amount of power may seem negligible, these "vampire appliances" can suck up about 10% of your energy bill, potentially costing you hundreds of dollars per year, depending on the cost of energy where you live.

A few of the biggest energy wasters include flat screen TVs, video game consoles, phone chargers and cable boxes. A smart solution is plugging these devices into an advanced power strip, which prevents electronics from using power when they’re not in use, or keeping them unplugged altogether when you don’t need them.

8. Donate Your Old Items

Here’s a green living tip that will cost you nothing: Donate your old or unwanted items instead of throwing them in the trash. Many of the items you may no longer need, from laptop computers, cell phones, appliances to old clothes may be perfectly usable to – and needed by – other people. By donating them to a nonprofit or giving them directly to someone in need, you’ll be preventing or delaying their ending up in a landfill.  

9. Choose Green/Natural Cleaning Products

Choosing green or eco-friendly cleaning products for chores around the house is a good idea, but it’s important to understand what “eco-friendly” or “green” means in product labeling.

When looking for cleaning products that are both effective and good for the planet, how do you know which cleaning products are made by companies that are greenwashing (simply cashing in on the sustainability movement) and which ones are actually sustainable and environmentally friendly? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers a couple of programs for cleaning products:  

  • The voluntary Safer Choice program reviews chemical ingredients in all-purpose cleaners like dish soap and laundry detergent for safety to human health and the environment. Products must also meet performance standards, use sustainable packaging, meet pH standards that minimize the potential for skin and eye injury and restrict volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to reduce indoor air pollution.   

  • The Design for the Environment (DfE) certification program evaluates antimicrobial products like toilet bowl cleaners and bathtub disinfectants that meet pesticide registration requirements and DfE-certified Safer Choice standards. 

Both programs have online databases that consumers can browse to discover products that meet the criteria for these programs.  

10. Consider Online Learning

If you’re considering earning a college degree or enrolling in a certificate program, take a look at the sustainability and economic benefits of online degree programs. When the Sustainable Business Toolkit looked at online learning, it found some surprising benefits:

  • Reduced paper waste: Online learning requires much less paper, which uses fewer trees and may help to reduce deforestation. Students attending classes from home may not be living in a completely paperless world, but since they submit their work digitally, the need for paper and all the energy it takes to produce it is greatly reduced.

  • Reduced pollution: The number of vehicles on the road and all the emissions from those vehicles is greatly reduced if students, faculty and support staff don’t have to drive to and from a centralized campus location several times each week. 

  • Less energy consumption: The reduction in energy consumption could substantially ease the strain on the energy grid and enable educational institutions to redistribute the money they spend heating, cooling and powering huge campus buildings to other services or support measures that would more directly benefit students and their enrichment.

11. Recycle

You may have heard the slogan: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. By doing what we can to reduce the amount of trash we generate, we eliminate many kinds of waste. Reusing or repurposing items like plastic containers helps keep them out of the landfills, and recycling saves energy and protects the environment. Since that first Earth Day, recycling has become a routine part of our lives as municipal recycling programs have become widespread. Plastics, paper, glass and metal can all be recycled, and organic material can be composted.

Used electronics like cell phones, computers and TVs fall into a category known as e-waste. In 2019, the world generated 53.6 million metric tons of it. Fueled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short product life cycles and few options for repair, e-waste has become the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences considers e-waste to be an emerging health risk because many of the components used to make cell phones, televisions, laptops and other electronic devices contain metals and chemicals that are known to be harmful to human health. To recycle consumer electronics, check with your municipality to see if they have an e-waste collection program or visit the EPA’s website to find retailers near you who accept used electronics for donation or recycling.

12. Practice Mindful Consumption

While shopping online, at the local supermarket or a big box store, we might find ourselves buying too much too often. Think about how frequently you purchase items like perishable food that goes uneaten, single-use products, paper, harmful cleaning products or fast fashion . Since it requires raw materials, energy and fuel to make, process and ship all of these items, buying less of them is a simple way you can help reduce your carbon footprint, save money and keep stuff out of landfills.

13. Support Sustainable Businesses

There are many ways to support socially and environmentally responsible businesses and brands. Look for companies that openly work to support the environment and champion social causes by donating some of their profits. A few examples include:

  • Fair Trade items: The Fair Trade Certified ™ seal on products signifies that items – coffee and tea, apparel, seafood and many more products – are made or grown in accordance with rigorous environmental and social standards. 

  • One Percent for the Planet: When you go shopping, you can indirectly donate to more than 1,200 member businesses of the 1% for the Planet initiative. The participating companies agree to donate 1% of their annual sales directly to environmental nonprofit organizations.

  • Eco-friendly clothing brands: The fast fashion method of designing, manufacturing and marketing high volumes of clothing has resulted in overconsumption and harm to the environment, garment workers and animals. Eco-friendly clothing brands utilize sustainable production methods and natural, sustainable or recycled materials. Next time you make a wardrobe update, look for brands that are working to clean up the industry and the planet.

14. Start a Garden

Planting a garden is another earth-friendly tip. Organic gardening – that is, growing things without the use of harmful fertilizers or pesticides – can be rewarding in several ways. It’s easy to grow your own vegetables in a backyard garden, contributing to your own self-sufficiency and sharing what you don’t use with friends, neighbors and coworkers.

Don’t have a back yard? There are a couple of alternatives. Consider renting a plot in a community garden. You can find an established garden by visiting the American Community Gardening Association’s website. Your local cooperative extension can also offer advice.

Herb gardens provide ingredients to liven up your culinary concoctions and take up much less space than vegetable gardens. They can be planted on a patio in pots or a raised bed, or even indoors.

15. Consider Composting

Decomposing organisms may not be your thing, but the benefits of composting to your garden and to the planet might make it worth a try.

Composting is a great way to recycle – or actually repurpose – the organic waste we generate at home and keep it out of landfills. According to the National Resources Defense Council, food scraps and garden waste constitute about 28% of what we throw away.  Gardeners compost because they understand its impact on the health of the soil and how it can help reduce erosion. Containing 3 primary nutrients needed by garden crops – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – compost, sometimes referred to as “black gold” by farmers, represents an organic alternative to synthetic fertilizers that contain harmful chemicals. Composting also increases soil’s water retention capacity, helping to reduce the need for irrigation.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Online Learning at DeVry

At DeVry, you can skip the commute and reduce your environmental impact with 100% online degree and certificate programs. Choose from areas such as accounting, healthcare, business, information technology and cyber security, all taught by knowledgeable professors with real-world experience to help you prepare to pursue careers in today’s competitive economy.

Let’s talk about how you can get started in our next session. Classes start every 8 weeks.

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