Earth graphic

With Earth Day later this month and spring on our doorstep, now is the ideal time to begin to focus on the long-term changes we can make to help better the environment as college students.

Here are some ways UT students can live sustainably and support the environment.


This is likely one of the best known ways to help the environment. The terms reduce, reuse and recycle have been talked about for a long time, but it is important to embrace those concepts instead of just acknowledging them.

UT has great recycling services for students to use to help improve the environment. There are recycling bins all over campus, and there is also a public recycling drop-off that is always open.

If you are unsure as to what can be recycled, the list includes: cans, plastic, paper, cardboard, pallets, plastic films and bags, scrap metal, E-waste, batteries and printer and toner cartridges.


Along the lines of recycling, donating is also an important way to help conserve resources. By donating unneeded items, you are providing others the chance to use and enjoy the objects, without the manufacturing process having to be completed to make a new one.

Shop secondhand

When people donate their old things, they often become available in secondhand shops, which is a great place to find unique clothing for a fraction of the cost of new clothes.

Not only is this practice better on your wallet, but you are also lowering the cost of production by using materials that have already been made rather than having the resources used to make more.

Reusable bags

When you go shopping, do your best to stay away from those plastic bags most stores offer. If you need a bag, you can request paper as these are biodegradable. Better yet, bring your own reusable bag and save the plastic and paper bags from ever being used.


When you only need something for a short time, borrowing is a great option. This green practice will not only help the environment, but it will also help your pocket.

A great place to begin borrowing is books. Libraries are a great resource for this, as are websites that will allow you to rent textbooks such as Chegg and Amazon.

By only paying to rent out the books as long as you need them, like a semester of class, you are saving money, and requiring less paper and ink to be used, saving our valuable resources.

Reusable water bottles

By making the one-time investment in a reusable water bottle, you can eliminate your need and use of one-use-only plastic water bottles which are bad for the environment.

UT supports the use of refillable water bottles, as there are water bottle filling stations attached to most water fountains across campus for easy access to water.

When not in a global pandemic, UT also has The Mug Project, which encourages students to bring in their own coffee mugs to be used to get coffee and fountain drinks for a discounted price in order to reduce the use of the non-reusable cups usually associated with the drinks.

Activate energy saver settings

Most electronics have energy saving modes that help to reduce the excess power from devices and are available on most phones, tablets and laptops. This is an easy change to make that will benefit you as your devices will remain charged longer.

By using the energy saving mode, devices can go longer between charges, prolonging the battery life, as well as saving energy while the device is charging.

Unplug appliances

Having access to electricity is a nice luxury, but it doesn’t mean that we use appliances all hours of the day. Just because your TV is off, or you aren’t currently making coffee doesn’t mean that these appliances are not using energy.

As long as an appliance is plugged in, it is using electricity. The best way to minimize this excess electricity is to unplug appliances while they are not in use. This can be made easier if you have them plugged into a power strip because you could just flip the switch.

Avoid water waste

This can be as simple as turning off the water while you brush your teeth; don’t let the water run when you are not using it. You should also wait to do laundry until you have a full load and try to take shorter showers when you can.

Use natural light

The sun is a great resource for natural light. During the day, open the blinds and try to do your work near a window, using the natural light instead of that from a bulb. When you do use lights, make sure to turn them off when you leave the room.

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