Sustainability at UH Hilo

10 Simple Things You Can Do to Live More Sustainably

By Devyn Hanselmann

Alright, I get it… you’re in college, sustainability is probably not the first thing on your mind. Papers, mid-terms, labs, work, family… you have a lot to do. But, what if I told you that living a more sustainable life was simple, didn’t take a lot of time, and was good for not only you, but everything and everyone you love. Sounds like a good habit to me. Below are 10 easy ways to live a more sustainable life!

  1. Refuse single use plastic bottles! Instead of grabbing single use bottled drinks, invest in a reusable, metal drink bottle. According to CRI, the Container Recycling Institute, more than 60 million plastic bottles are thrown away each day! There are bottle refill stations around campus and most gas stations will allow you to fill up your bottle with water (free) and sometimes soda (for a price)! You can purchase these reusable bottles anywhere and they’re CHEAP! See some of my favorites linked below.
  1. Use reusable shopping bags & stop bagging your fruits/veggies! Plastic checkout bags are already a thing of the past here in Hawaiʻi, but all other states still allow them. Be sure to bring a reusable shopping bag when you travel (good for the store, beach, gym, dirty clothes, you name it). Take it to the next level and stop bagging your fruits and veggies. Your fruits and veggies were all touching 2 seconds before you picked it up… those plastic bags are useless and wasteful. If you don’t want your produce to roll around in your cart… reuse a cardboard box or one of your reusable shopping bags to secure them while shopping.

  2. Bring your own to-go containers/silverware to restaurants. Sigh, we are all guilty of taking home numerous Styrofoam and plastic to-go containers but, did you know that according to it can take over a million years for Styrofoam to break down! Plastics can take up to 1000 years to decompose according to The Balance Small Business. Thankfully, there is a more sustainable way to bring your goodies home; reusable, metal, to-go containers that double as slick lunch boxes and reusable/biodegradable bamboo silverware! Hooray!

  • Stainless Steel Bento Box - 3 tier lunch/to-go box
  • Thermos - great for soups or smoothies
  • Bamboo Utensils – sustainably sourced/made utensils for all adventures
  1. Say no to plastic straws & use reusable metal/bamboo straws OR none at all! I get it, no one loves ice crashing into their face when they’re trying to get the last delicious drop of their iced mocha… but people, wake up! According to Milo Cress, founder of Be Straw Free, an estimated 500 million disposable straws are used each day! Each day! Think of the many disposable straws you can save from the landfill by purchasing a reusable metal straw, hundreds! I use one and I love mine. They’re also great, affordable gifts!
  1. Bike, walk, or carpool! Ditch the car and get your legs movin’! Not only is walking or biking good for the environment, but it’s good for you! More calories & less fossil fuels burning and more endorphins pumping! It’s a win – win. but, I’m not naïve! Hilo rains… a lot! So, next time you’re on the way to work or school, ask a friend to ride with you. One less car on the road = cleaner, happier air for us all!

  2. Shop locally! Yay farmer’s markets! Who doesn’t love loading up on beautiful, fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies?! It’s a produce bouquet in your arms! Buying local not only supports your neighbors, but helps cut down on the carbon footprint of your food. What’s a carbon footprint? Let’s let the experts answer that! According to Carbon Trust, a carbon footprint is “the total greenhouse gas emission caused directly and indirectly by a person, organization, event or product.” There you have it! Reduce your carbon emissions by shopping locally. P.S. if you’re on the SNAP program aka food stamps, your money is now worth double at farmer’s markets! Woohoo!

  1. Go electronic! One of the easiest ways to be more sustainable is to opt out of paper statements/receipts. Have your bank send you electronic statements by email (also easier to keep organized) and if your local businesses provide the option, have your receipt sent to you electronically or don’t print a receipt at all! Your carbon footprint is shrinking further

  2. Recycle! Everyone has heard this, that’s why it’s not number one on the list, but, it’s still important! If you end up using products packaged in plastics, cardboard, glass etc. Please be sure to recycle them properly! It’s simple, and many times you can get money back for certain aluminum, glass, and plastics products you use regularly. There are recycling bins placed all around campus, so keep your eyes peeled. To recycle, follow these steps: wash your recyclable, look at the label on the packaging, throw it in the right bin. Tada! You recycled. Or if you’re recycling at home, keep two bins. One bin for all your recyclables that can be redeemed for money, such as, HI 5 plastics, aluminum cans, and glass drink bottles. Second bin for all your other recyclables such as, cardboard, other glass containers, other plastics, etc. If you’re uncertain if a product can be recycled… treat it as if it can be, take it to the dump, and ask one of the attendants. If it can’t be recycled, keep a mental note and try to buy a different product that can be!

  3. Compost! Ew, isn’t composting like dirty? Uh, yeah it’s “dirt”-y, but it’s also amazing! Did you know that UH Hilo has a composting program? No? Well, welcome to the light. It’s also super simple and fast! All you have to do is scrap your food waste into the composting bin, along with all other disposable paper products that do not have a wax lining (e.g. paper coffee sleeves, brown clamshell to-go containers, paper condiment packets, chopsticks, napkins) and boom! You’ve composted! All composting material is currently being used around campus to promote raised garden beds. One of the dreams of the Students of Sustainability (SOS) is to “provide students access to healthy and quality plant resources directly from campus”.

  4. Last but not least – wear oxybenzone/octinoxate free sunscreen! It was signed into law in 2018, that in 2021, all sunscreens sold in Hawaiʻi will be oxybenzone and octinoxate free. But why wait until 2021? I perused the aisle of some of our local shopping centers and found almost all of the sunscreens they sold had either oxybenzone or octinoxate. These ingredients kill coral reefs! One of my favorite things about Hawaiʻi are the reefs and the beautiful creatures you can find there. If you want to enjoy these reefs for years to come, like I do, be mindful of the ingredients in your sunscreen and purchase “reef safe” sunscreen. Watch the video below to understand how oxybenzone and octinoxate harms our coral reefs here in Hawaiʻi.

  • Sun Bum 50 SPF – if you’re into the lotion
  • Sun Bum 50 SPF Moisturizing Protection Hypoallergenic/ Spray – if you’re into the spray

So there you have it, 10 simple ways to live a more sustainable life. Many of these can be incorporated into your life today. So why wait until 2021 to stop killing Hawaiian reefs? Why continue bagging your fruits and veggies? Why drive to school when it’s a rare, bright, sunny day in Hilo? Make a choice. Make the right choice for your life and for future generations to come. Mahalo!

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