Make a resolution you can keep: 12 ways to live more sustainably

By: Julia Hall – Staff Writer

Failed New Year’s resolutions often become notorious at this time of year, yet choosing to live in a more environmentally friendly manner, especially among the crazy diets and excessive exercise kicks, is an attainable goal. By exerting even minimal efforts, you can change the future of our planet.

1. If you live in a house or apartment, buy local or organic groceries. Or, if you live in a dorm, use reusable containers at the dining hall.

Meg Maloney, sophomore environmental biology major and co-president of the Sustainability Club, suggested, “A lot of people that are living in houses purchase all their food. So, they can start purchasing things that are organic or locally grown. Dayton has a lot of farmers markets. 2nd Street Market is really close.”

“If you are eating in KU, you may not have a choice at where your food comes from, but then you make a choice at how you’re packaging it,” Leslie King, director of the Rivers Institute, added. “I am glad that KU has composting, but the next step would be bringing your own reusable container. You can have them weigh it when you go in, and have them subtract it when you leave.”

2. Use the composting bins.

“Dayton is really efficient at composting. If you live in a house, you can [buy] a mini-composter at like $20 at Target, then you can bring your compost to KU and they will compost for you,” Maloney said. “People in dorms can work on recycling. Also, they are trying to start a pilot program in Marycrest on composting on the living floors, so that residents are more aware of their recycling and composting habits.”

3. Ride your bike or walk with your own two feet.

Dayton has several opportunities to explore. Try taking out a RecBike or Link bike to ride to the Art Institute later this semester.

“Bikes. The nice thing is that Dayton is really close, so you can ride your bike there, which is also great for local businesses,” Maloney suggested.

4. Drink from a reusable water bottle and coffee mug.

Satisfying your caffeine addiction can still be done without creating more waste.

According to health site SustainableLiving.Solutions, “We have even created an entire island of plastic off the coast of California known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is twice the size of Texas! Its pieces outnumber sea life six to one, leading to the death of over one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals annually.”

“If it’s just a water bottle, then that’s step one,” King said. “If it’s a coffee mug, then that’s step two. That’s two changes you’ve made. How many coffee cups less is that in the trash?”
5. Take notes on your laptop. Killing less trees means more oxygen.

Maloney advised “taking notes on your computer or tablets,” adding, “White boards in study spaces are great for doing practice problems or thinking through ideas to avoid wasting paper.”

6. Lower your thermostat. As you lower the burning of fossil fuels, wear an extra pair of fuzzy socks.

“At roughly 45% of one’s total energy bill, household heating and AC systems make up the largest portion of typical household energy use,” according to SustainableLiving.Solutions. “Due to this fact, one of the easiest ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce one’s carbon footprint is by modifying current heating and AC systems.”

“So, what’s your thermostat at?” King challenged students. “And what are you wearing? We keep the thermostat at our house at 62. We wear socks. We wear sweaters.”

7. Cast your vote wisely. Discover how the presidential candidates plan on creating a better, livable environment for the future of our, the human population’s, planet.

Michelle Pautz, Ph.D., Director of the Master of Public Administration Program and an Associate Professor of Political Science, proposed that students look beyond sound bites and Facebook to be an informed citizen and voter.

8. Join in UD community sustainability events and organizations.

Anyone can join the Sustainability Club. If you are a first-year, check out the River Stewards program. Applications are due Feb. 15.

9. Unplug cords when not in use.

Yup, that means your phone charger, lamps and coffee makers still use electricity if they are off but plugged into the wall.

“That may be one of the hardest things on a college campus because you aren’t paying your bills…your parents are,” King said. “Well, you start thinking, ‘Who’s paying those costs, whether the financial costs or those environmental injustices around oil consumption in our country?’”

10. Become aware. Be informed.
Read books, magazines, scientific journals, newspapers, magazines, etc.

King suggested some reading material to start with: “I love Mother Earth Jones. It is a great magazine. You are seeing some of the most innovated practices around living simply and sustainably. The people highlighted in that magazine are constantly going the next step. For me, that is not only a how-to, but also inspiring.”

11. Wash your clothes and dishes with naturally based soaps.

“Phosphorous is super bad for any ecosystem, which comes a lot from dishwashers and washing machines, so you can get naturally-based laundry detergents and soaps,” Maloney explained.

12. Take a class. Try the mini-course Living Simply and Sustainably, UDI 324.

Pautz also noted that that almost every department has classes on environmental topics. She referenced Literature of the Environment and Environmental Ethics as two other examples.

“It starts with self-awareness and you start to pay attention to your actions,” King stated. “So, maybe you realize you don’t turn lights off. Then, maybe when you start to think about the impacts of turning those lights on, then you start changing your behavior.”

So, make a resolution you can maintain: live more sustainably. Even if your health kick didn’t last, you can still make a change that will extend beyond your health and mental state to help augment the longevity of our natural resources.

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Photo: The recently constructed Martin Luther King, Jr. monument commemorates King’s 1964 speech at the University of Dayton. Chris Santucci/Multimedia Editor.