A Student’s Guide to Sustainable Living
Written by: Emma Solecki, AMS First Year Intern
It doesn’t take a degree to recognize that our environment is a messy place, both literally and figuratively. Deforestation and pollution are destroying natural ecosystems and their inhabitants all over the planet. Overpopulation threatens our natural resources and further environmental exploitation is required to meet our demands. Consumerism urges us to buy far more than our necessities. And only 1% of the plastic bags that we use with these purchases make it to the recycling plant.
At the root of so many of these environmental concerns is the human obsession with mass consumption; and yet, we rarely accept this responsibility. Here in Canada, and more specifically here at Queen’s, we do not see the harsh realities of the implications of our day-to-day decisions. We do not see how failing to properly sort our recyclables results in the whole batch being sent to the landfill. We do not see the emissions and materials that went into that cute shirt we just picked up downtown. We do not see that every single-use material we have taken advantage of will likely never decompose. We are all guilty of this ignorance; however, just because we do not always see the direct implications of our decisions, does not mean we cannot be a part of the solution.
Sustainability has become a trendy buzzword lately, but what does it actually mean? And how can you practice it on campus with a student lifestyle and budget? If you’ve found yourself asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place!
THE BASICS: Simple switches to start your sustainable lifestyle
- Say “NO” to plastic straws
Plastic straws interfere with the environment, the health of wildlife, and take up to 1000 years to decompose. Reducing your single-use materials is a simple way to practice sustainability that makes a great impact. You can purchase a 6-pack of stainless-steel straws and a straw cleaner from Amazon for just $6.42 using the link below.
- Quit buying plastic toothbrushes
One billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown out each year, creating 50 million pounds of waste annually. Plastic toothbrushes used in one year by North Americans alone could circumference the Earth four times. Nearly all of these toothbrushes will end up in landfills and they will never decompose. For a sustainable and biodegradable alternative, check out this four pack of bamboo toothbrushes, available on Amazon for $9.98.
- ALWAYS bring your reusable water bottles and containers
It’s cool to be reusable! Always bring your favourite reusable water bottle to avoid using the single-use alternatives. This action alone could reduce the amount of single-use bottles by 170 bottles per person per year.
Pack your snacks and meals in reusable containers and be wary of the amount of packaging your go-to snacks use. When eating out either opt to dine in with real plates and cutlery to avoid single-use take out containers. If you must take out, bring your reusables and ask your server if they would package your food in your containers rather than their single-use containers. You can find a variety of reusable containers at your local dollar store for affordable options.
NOTE FOR FIRST YEARS: Bring your reusable containers and water bottles for TAMs!
- Greenovations at Queen’s University
Greenovations provides free energy-efficient retrofits in houses in the University District, which helps lessen students’ ecological footprint. Check out their Facebook page Greenovations at Queen’s University to learn and inquire about free energy efficient lightbulbs and window and door insulation for your home.
- The Earth Centre at Queen’s University
The Earth Centre offers the Queen’s community opportunities to practice green consumption and innovative discussion by offering green products for sale and informing students about environmental topics. Check out their Facebook page The Earth Centre for more information or stop by room 033 of the lower level JDUC.
- Bikes and Boards
Bikes and Boards is a student-run club for all of your bicycle and longboard needs and repairs! Biking or boarding around campus and downtown is one easy way to save energy and reduce emissions. Learn more about Bikes and Boards by visiting their Facebook page or stopping by the shop located on the lower level of the JDUC.
- Reusable Bags
500 billion plastic bags are produced every year. And less than 1% of those used will successfully make it to the recycling plant. The other 99% end up polluting oceans, forests, and other ecosystems. A simple way to reduce your contribution to the plastic bag issue is investing in reusable bags. For groceries, you can purchase a pack of nine reusable produce bags from Amazon for $14.99. Also bring along reusable tote bags on your shopping trips.
- Thrift Shopping
Not only is it trendy and affordable, thrift shopping is environmentally friendly! Before you overpay and contribute to overconsumption, consider shopping at any one of Kingston’s many thrift shops, listed below in order of proximity to Queen’s campus.
- Phase 2 – 353 Princess St
- Cash for Clothes – 359 Barrie St
- The Salvation Army Family Thrift Store – 472 Division St
- The Goodway Thrift Store – 844 Division St
- The Salvation Army – 277 Bath St
- Value Village, 1300 Bath St
- Mission Thrift Store – 2455 Princess St
- Talize Thrift Store – 540 Gardiners Rd
- Bulk Food Shopping
Shopping in bulk is a great way to put your reusable grocery bags to good use and allows us to be conscious of reducing excess food waste and limiting single-use packaging. The most affordable bulk shopping locations in Kingston are the two Bulk Barn locations; one of which is on Division and the other on Norwest. For a location close to campus, visit the Grocery Checkout in the Queen’s Centre (ARC) that has various bulk food options.
- Diva Cups
Diva cups are an environmentally friendly option to menstrual hygiene products. You can pick up your Diva Cup today from our Sexual Health Resource Centre here on campus for $31. The Diva Cup can last up to 10 years if cared for and cleaned properly. Annually the average of a person menstruating will spend $87.93 on pads and tampons. So, you can spend $31 for the next ten years, or buy environmentally destructive products that will put you out $879.30.
But if $31 is too much for you right now, don’t worry! You can buy an off-brand version that comes in a package of 2 for just $17.15, also available at the Sexual Health Resource Centre in the JDUC.