The basics of being environmentally friendly at Sewanee and beyond

By Helena Kilburn

Staff Writer

Here are some basic ideas for being sustainable both at Sewanee and beyond that can make a big impact. It is important for people to move towards more sustainable habits because even small actions can help the health of the environment. As college students, there are many easy ways to do this that are still impactful and worthwhile.

At this point in time, there are few acceptable excuses for buying and using plastic water bottles. There are so few places on campus where one can get a pre-packaged drink, yet there is still a suspicious amount of plastic bottles to be seen. One can find filtered water suppliers in almost every building on campus, which are perfect for filling up reusable bottles. This makes the act of buying plastic water bottles senseless. Also, thanks to McClurg’s varied and extensive drink selection, there is really no reason to buy bottled drinks. If people keep their reusable water bottles in their bags, it can be easily filled with any drink in the dining hall.

Along with a reusable water bottle, bring a reusable cup to campus during hours of coffee or tea consumption. Instead of grabbing one of the white paper cups stacked conveniently by the McClurg doors, which due to their plastic lining are non-recyclable, use a reusable cup for coffee/tea to go. There is even a Sewanee-specific benefit to using a reusable cup. Have you ever been to Stirlings? If so, have you ever gotten a drink to go? Have you done that 10 times? If so, you should definitely be using your own cup, because not only is it more sustainable, but Stirling’s will give you a card and stamp it every time you use your reusable cup. After 10 stamps you get a free coffee! Just one more reason to use your own coffee cup. Off-campus, there are still rewards to using your own cup. Many coffee shops, including Starbucks, will give you a discount for using your own cup, so why not?

As is the case with plastic water bottles, there is really no reason or excuse to use plastic bags. The negative impact of these on the environment has been proven and publicized time and time again. As college students, we don’t often have to go shopping, but few of us get through a semester without a trip or two to CVS or The Pig. When you do make these quick trips, bring your own tote as an easy way to avoid the plastic bags. This is a simple and easy action that really does help the environment. Don’t forget your tote over breaks either: chances are you will do more shopping when you get off the mountain, so there will be more opportunities to use it.

Clothes can be washed until they are perfectly clean without having to use hot water. Cold water laundry detergent makes it possible to  wash clothes in cold water, which is much more sustainable. As any student who has tried to do laundry on a Sunday knows, a lot of water is used at Sewanee for laundry because there are a lot of students washing clothes. Cold water detergent is an easy way to make this water use a little more sustainable both at Sewanee and beyond.

Travel has harsh consequences on the environment. It is important for students to get off campus to see their families at some points throughout the year, but some ways of doing this are more sustainable than others. If you are deciding between flying and driving somewhere, keep in mind that flying is significantly more taxing on the environment. If you do decide to fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets. This is a way of paying to balance your environmental footprint by paying money that will go toward activities which help the environment such as planting trees. If you decide to drive to your destination, think about carpooling. Not only will this make the drive more enjoyable and possibly give you the opportunity to meet a new peer, it is also much better for the environment.

These simple changes can help each and every Sewanee student form habits that will help improve the health of the environment.