You can help create a more sustainable future!
We hear a lot from various organizations about how much responsibility individuals have in fighting climate change. But the truth is, governments and corporations actually have the greatest responsibility in overhauling the food, energy, and transportation systems that contribute to the climate crisis in the most devastating ways.
But even if your individual choices won’t single-handedly save the planet, you can still play an important role in caring for the environment. The small, positive differences you make are still better than none at all—and your actions could snowball by inspiring the people around you to live more sustainably as well.
As the exam season winds down, take a moment to reassess your habits and routines and their environmental impact—check out these tips and see what small (or big) changes you can make. I use BC as an example in most of these tips, but you can tailor these suggestions for wherever you're currently based!
And, if you’re motivated to take even more action, keep scrolling for UBC clubs and initiatives you can join to help enact change at an institutional level!
Green your home and lifestyle
- Watch your energy use. Most electricity in BC is generated relatively sustainably, so I won’t talk too much about turning off your lights and other electronics. However, depending on what your home is like, your heating and hot water might be generated with fossil fuels. Don’t force yourself to shiver on a cold day, but consider bundling up and having a warm drink instead of turning up the thermostat, and try to limit the amount of time you spend under a hot shower.
- Make sure you’re recycling and composting correctly. In 2018, the recycling recovery rate in BC was about 78%, meaning that 22% of materials picked up by Recycle BC could not be recycled. Though that may not sound too drastic, it still means tens of thousands of materials (much of it plastic) ended up in landfills, where it could take hundreds of years to decompose. Sort and clean everything as well as you can—soft plastics like bags, packaging, and wrappers usually aren’t picked up, so take them to a Recycle BC depot. Some stores, like London Drugs, also accept materials from items purchased at their store for recycling!
- Buy plastic-free products. Plastic is the material with the lowest recycling recovery rate, so avoid it where you can. Look for refillable toiletries and cleaning products like shampoo, toothpaste, and dish soap (it may seem weird at first, but I’ve found solid types of these products—which tend to use much less packaging—can work pretty well!). Try buying items in bulk when grocery shopping to cut down on packaging as well.
- In fact, make sure all of your kitchen supplies are reusable. Beeswax wrap can be used multiple times and often features fun designs to spruce up your fridge. Use cloth towels instead of paper towels, invest in reusable grocery and produce bags, avoid single-use coffee pods, and stock up on glass and metal tupperware!
- Go meatless a day or two a week. If, like me, you’ve struggled to completely cut out meat, cutting down can still make a difference. Beef production uses more land and creates more emissions than almost any other type of food production, so consider relegating that steak to a rare treat. There are a lot of super easy vegetarian or vegan meals to try!
- Rethink how you shop for clothes and furniture. Buy used clothing whenever you can, and if you have to buy something new, try to buy higher quality items that you can wear a lot and that will last a long time. The fast fashion industry is one of the worst polluters on the planet—and you can probably find more interesting pieces at your local thrift or consignment store (try UBC’s own Get Thrifty) than at the mall! Additionally, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are good resources for finding cheap, used furniture that’s often better quality than the stuff at a big-box store.
- Cut down on car (and plane) use. To do this, I like getting in some exercise while doing errands. That’s right, ride your bicycle to the grocery store instead of driving, walk to your next doctor’s appointment, skateboard to the pharmacy—when you have the time and energy. Decreasing your reliance on cars is a good habit to get into!
Get involved at UBC
If you want to do even more to take action on environmental issues, check out these clubs and associations at UBC:
The UBC Climate Hub is working towards a just and sustainable low-carbon future in conjunction with a wide array of offices and initiatives at UBC. Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram for opportunities!
- Common Energy UBC is striving to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of the UBC community through teams that focus on issues like food choice and green infrastructure. Get energized to fight the climate crisis by keeping up to date on their Instagram.
- Climate Justice UBC (formerly UBC350) is a community of students advocating for Indigenous sovereignty, migrant justice, and a Green New Deal. See how you can help foster climate justice by following their Instagram.
- The Environmental Policy Association is a student organization dedicated to analyzing economic and political responses to climate change. Take a look at their Facebook page if you’re a policy wonk!
- The UBC Student Environment Centre provides environmental and sustainability resources for the UBC community through workshops and support for student initiatives. They also run the UBC Free Store! See what they’re up to on their Facebook page.
Additionally, this page from UBC Sustainability has a comprehensive list of all the student groups you can join if you’re interested in taking climate action!