Tips to reduce a ‘greenless conscience’

We’ve all heard the phrase “go green” more times in the past five years than track and field Olympian Maurice Greene did when he ran his spectator-filled races. I’m sure Greene was energized by the alliteration (the gold medals speak for themselves), but I think St. Thomas students could use a little more motivation.

Reducing and reusing the amount of waste purchased and created is absolutely key to jumping on the bandwagon (a human-powered, made-of-recycled-materials wagon, of course), and the opportunities to do so are endless.  GEENA_REVISED

Here’s what students can do to reduce guilty, greenless consciences:

Got a job? Talk to your employer about direct deposit. You’ll never receive another paper paycheck or envelope from work again. Not only is this an obvious paper saver, but you’ll save time and money by eliminating trips to the bank and ATM. If your job is on-campus, fill out the direct deposit form.

Like to drink coffee or tea? Bring your own mug instead of wasting another paper cup and sleeve. Places like Starbucks Corp. even offer discounts when you bring your dish from home. If you forgot your thermos, no need to fret. You can still feel green by asking for no sleeve with your drink.

Leave the water running while brushing your teeth? Turning the faucet off when brushing was common sense to me, but nearly every roommate I’ve had in my college career left the water on. Sunnyslope County Water District (Calif.) found that people use about five gallons of water if they leave the water running while brushing their teeth.

Own a lot of electronics? One word: powerstrip. The beauty of power strips is that most, if not all, of your electronics can be plugged into one place. When you’re not using the electronics, all you do is switch off the strip. Most people don’t realize that plugged in electronics still syphon energy. According to Lawrence Berkley Nation Laboratory, standby power consumption in an average home ranges from 5 to 10 percent of your household energy consumption.

Running out of printing paper on your student account? To put it simply, don’t print. Truthfully, you don’t need to print out the syllabus on the first day of class. You’re not going to fail if you don’t print the study guide. If it’s on Blackboard, it’ll stay there (unless your professor says otherwise). And if you absolutely need to print that slideshow for your presentation instead of making small notes on a notecard, don’t be “that student” who prints one slide on each page, one-sided.

Are plastic bags scattered across your room? Buy one or two reusable canvas bags for all your shopping, and keep them in your car. Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, a thermoplastic that’s made from oil, and I don’t need to delve in our country’s detrimental oil problem. According to Help Wildlife, plastic bags have been banned in Bangladesh and Rwanda, are taxed in Ireland, must be purchased in China and are either banned or there are proposals to ban them in Israel, Canada, Western India, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan, and Singapore.

Since most plastics come from oil, it’s best to avoid plastic products as much as possible. And don’t even get me started on plastic water bottles.

There are hundreds of opportunities that I haven’t even mentioned. Recycling plastic, glass, and aluminum bottles, paper, cardboard, cell phones; washing your clothes and dishes in cold water; walking or biking instead of driving–all of these are important factors to integrate into your life.

But it doesn’t stop there. In all the decisions you make throughout the day, ask yourself how you can do the world a favor by being greener. The health of this earth is in our hands to protect; let’s do the right thing and show some respect.

Geena Maharaj can be reached at