Many Ohio University students want to live in a way that decreases their impact on the environment but struggle to put it into action. This can be for a variety of reasons, but often comes down to not knowing where to start or how to work sustainable solutions into the notoriously small budget of a college student. However, small changes to one’s day-to-day life can greatly decrease a student’s carbon footprint in a big way.
The easiest, most inexpensive way to begin reducing personal carbon footprint and pollution is to walk instead of drive whenever possible. At OU, this is already a norm because of how relatively small the campus is.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from transportation account for roughly 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.. What is almost more concerning is that between 1990 and 2019, greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector have increased more so than in any other sector, which is disheartening to say at the least, given all the information about climate change that has only become more accessible throughout this period of time. The auto industry should be paying attention and making greener cars more sustainable. This is out of students’ control.
A smaller way to reduce personal pollution is to switch from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo. National Geographic reports that a billion plastic toothbrushes with nylon bristles will be thrown away this year alone. Nylon and plastic take over 400 years to decompose, and even when they begin to biodegrade, they leave microplastics behind that then make their way into soil, polluting the food we eat. Along with this, heavy rain then carries these microplastics into the ocean, further endangering marine wildlife.
Bamboo is the best alternative because of how sustainable it is. Capable of growing in arid conditions and fast-growing, there is little reason to worry about the resource running out. More importantly, bamboo is completely biodegradable, meaning once one is done with the toothbrush, simply cut off the bristles and put it in the compost site on campus. For only a few dollars, one can easily begin the process of reducing their contribution of harmful microplastics to the environment.
Concern over the use of plastic utensils has been growing over the past couple of years as well.
The problem with plastic utensils starts in the earliest stage of its life cycle, as plastic utensils are actually made from oil, a limited resource, in a factory that burns fossil fuels, contributing to air pollution.
The plastic utensil will then be used once and end up in a landfill. Even when recycled, plastic utensils are often contaminated with food, defeating the purpose of recycling them in the first place.
For this, there are a couple possible solutions. First, one could reuse their plastic utensils by taking them home and washing them. Although they would likely degrade after a while and still result in some pollution when they are no longer usable, this is still more beneficial to the environment than using them once and then throwing them out.
The second, more sustainable solution is to simply bring your own reusable, non-plastic utensils from home to the dining halls. Although it is only one extra step, it is frequently overlooked because of how available plastic silverware is in the dining halls.
Making small changes in your own life will not solve the climate crisis alone; ultimately, industries choosing to put time and resources into more sustainable materials and methods is what is going to make a measurable difference. However, making small impacts on the local environment is not to be overlooked. Progress is progress, no matter how small.
Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.
Assistant Opinion Editor