Something that I’ve been educating myself about recently is sustainable living, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with everyone. I’ve really been focused on trying to find ways that I can make small changes in my lifestyle to better other people and the planet without jeopardizing my health. The following are just a few things that I’ve started doing.
1. Reducing my paper and plastic usage. To start, I only use reusable kitchen utensils. This means no plastic silverware, plastic cups, paper plates, or any other type of paper or plastic utensils. Instead, everything is reusable, including my water bottle. I also avoid using paper towels, and instead use a cloth hand towel in the kitchen to dry my hands and to dry dishes.
Outside of the kitchen, I also try to reduce the amount of paper and plastic I use. For example, when printing notes or slides for class. I print everything double sided, with multiple sides on a page. For every number of pages I have to print, I try to fit everything together, to cut the number of pages in half.
2. Using as little electricity as possible. It’s the little things like turning off the lights when you leave a room, or not running your air conditioner all hours of the day that will make a difference. This will bring down your electricity bill as an added bonus. Also, in the kitchen, washing dishes in the dishwasher can be more sustainable than washing dishes by hand. This is because on average the dishwasher uses ½ of the energy and half of the soap that you would use to wash dishes by hand. So if you’ve ever complained about washing dishes, here’s a great excuse to avoid the chore.
3. Recycling and composting. This one is obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning because it’s an easy thing to do. IU strongly encourages students to recycle and compost, and offers lots of opportunities for students to do so. Every IU building has recycling and compost bins and there’s more elsewhere throughout campus as well. However, since we’re online this semester and not on campus much, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still recycle. Most houses in Bloomington are covered by the city's recycling program, and all you have to do is signup on their website to have a bin delivered to you. If you’re living in an apartment like me, and there’s no recycling, don’t worry. Bloomington’s recycling center actually allows city residents to drop off their recycling at its recycling drop-off location on Walnut Street. You can find more details for the drop-off recycling at this link: https://sustain.iu.edu/commitment/resource-recycling/off-campus%20guide. This has been a great way for me to still recycle even without my apartment complex offering recycling.
4. Shopping for organic foods and shopping locally. With Bloomington’s farmers markets and the many farms around Bloomington that sell locally produced foods, there are many options to get some farm fresh food! However, if you don’t have time to take a trip out to a local farmers stand or to the farmers market, there are some stores that also sell local produce. Bloomingfoods, on East 3rd Street, is a co-op business which means that it is voluntarily owned by the people that use it. Everything sold in Bloomingfoods is locally grown, which means it’s all grown in Indiana. This is a great option that I use when I don’t have time to go all the way to the farmers market.
A side note on this sustainable practice is that I also try to limit my meat consumption. Meat production is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, which means that it’s a large contributor to climate change. To reduce my meat consumption, I’ve taken baby steps by slowly reducing the number of days I have meat and the amount of meat that I have at each meal. On top of helping the environment, reducing my red meat consumption is great for my health. Eating lots of red meat can make you more prone to heart disease, stokes and diabetes. So when I go shop locally, I don’t focus on buying lots of meat, but instead, lots of produce.
5. Having a healthy living environment. I’ve touched on this in a previous blog post, but part of being sustainable is also taking care of yourself. Through the foods you eat (local and fresh produce is best!) and through your activities, it’s important to take care of yourself. Some things I’ve done are get some plants for my study space to increase the amount of oxygen in the room, go for walks or runs, and cook meals with fresh vegetables every day. By being sustainable, I’m improving my health, becoming more productive and feeling happier.
I hope everyone’s able to try to be a little more sustainable, and if you’re already doing these things, then that’s great! I’d love to learn about other ways that everyone is being sustainable, so please reach out and let me know what other things I can do to be more sustainable and to take better care of myself, those around me, and the planet.
Written by: Kara Lehner
Kara is the Communications Associate in The Women’s Network. She is a sophomore and is a part of the Communications Committee. Kara is also a member of Run Club, Net Impact, and CLD at IU. In her free time she loves to run, bike, kayak, read and hangout with friends.