How to be a better eco-student

How to be a better eco-student

Tuesday, September 07, 2004 @03:05PM  (The Link, Concordia University Newspaper)

by Caroline Fernandez

Attending university doesn’t have to be a learning experience that’s solely classroom-based. Being away from your family for the first time can be tough, but to quote a lovely cliché, with each door that closes, a new one will open, and it could open your eyes to new means of saving money and saving the environment.

Students have control over their habits. We all stand to benefit from becoming more observant of how our environment is treated, and what steps we can take to reduce our impact on it.

Getting a recycling box (up to three are available free for any appartement) and using it is a start. This takes care of some household waste, but you may find your food scraps building up. To deal with fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds and other organic materials, why not start up an indoor worm compost? These worms live in a tupperware bucket and break down (eat) organic compounds to form rich, stink-free
soil fertilizer. Visit the Éco-Quartier in your neighbourhood to get recycling and composting information.

Every year students buy tons of school supplies, but the amount of pulp and bleach that goes into paper alone has a huge impact on the environment. The Co-op La Maison Verte, 5785 Sherbrooke Ouest (between SGW and Loyola) is a good place to find alternative school products. Reused/recycled paper notebooks and stationery run from only $1-$3, and recycled computer paper is $7.50 a pack.

The store also sells household items such as eco-friendly laundry and dish detergent, gardening and lawn care supplies, and non-disposable personal hygiene products. Low-flow showerheads and toilet dams will aid in conserving water and energy. Considering these products as investments makes them worth going the extra mile money-wise.

If spending more money isn’t your thing, lifestyle changes can be made for free. Gas-fuelled transportation is a big polluter and energy sucker, whether it is students getting around, or the ways in which the food we eat gets to us. According to Bronwen Agnew, the summer coordinator for Sustainable Concordia, taking public transportation, walking, skating, and biking to your destination are easy ways to be proactive pollution-wise. Also, buying locally-grown food and fair trade products not only benefits the environment, but also the people and economies of neighbouring and third world countries, she says.

Carefully choosing your daily meals in advance helps avoid the environmental nightmares caused by heavily packaged food and take-out. Amy Markanda, a University of Toronto student, says that every adjustment we make counts. “I try to avoid buying food that’s excessively wrapped in plastic, like those cookies that have dozens of saran wrap layers. It helps if we let those stores know why you’re not buying their products,” she says, adding that the stores may become more eco-friendly themselves by cutting down on waste output.

Of course, you can’t have your cookies without coffee. “I have a reusable mug for coffee–those disposable cups really add up,” Markanda notes. During this year’s orientation, the CSU will be selling reusable mugs for $4 (including a free beer).

What about those of us who pack our own lunches for school? “Instead of having garbage everyday from your lunch, like paper bags and plastic from your sandwiches, try to reuse a sandwich box, or even your foil wrap,” Markanda suggests.

In Montreal it’s easy to take recycling and reusing into account across the board. Whether you’re trying to furnish your appartement or just liven up your wardrobe, make sure you book off time for the annual upcoming Santropol Bazaar and Street Fair which takes place this Saturday, Sept. 11 from 10-5 p.m., on Duluth between St. Urbain and Esplanade. Second-hand items such as clothing and furniture will be available, along with good music and dancing. Proceeds will go to their meals-on-wheels service.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, visit the Salvation Army at 1620 Notre-Dame W. Meanwhile, a convenient website for students selling and looking to buy used goods is www.uswap.ca. Here, you’ll find everything from textbooks to furniture and appliances, to computer hardware and cell phones.

But more than anything else, spread the word. Preserving our environment is just as important as preserving your bank account.