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Sure, there are some items that we need to buy new (food is an obvious example), but next time you find yourself needing to buy something, consider whether you can buy the item used.  As college students, we’re usually tight for cash.  Thus, a trip to the thrift store (like Goodwill on Hwy 99) can be a thrilling experience.

As we move out of the dorms and start cooking in our own kitchens, we have to start accumulating things like pots and pans and other kitchen utensils.  Goodwill has an abundant supply of dirt-cheap kitchenware.  Buy stocking up here, you’ll save a ton of money.  Garage sales are a great source for this as well.

So how is buying used also being green?  Buying used can be thought of as recycling.  Used products already exist, so no more energy or natural resources have to be used to produce something brand new.  In addition, you’re saving this used item from ending up in the landfill.  When you’re done with it, donate or sell it to somebody else.

Kitchenware is just one of many types of products you can buy used.  Consider these as well:

  • Furniture
  • Books
  • CDs, DVDs, and video games
  • Clothing
  • Bikes and cars

More ideas can be found here and here.

Where to look:

Reusable BagMaking a habit of bringing reusable bags to the grocery store was one of the easiest transitions I’ve made so far.  Reusable bags are easy to find (they’re sold right next to the checkout lane at Roth’s and Albertsons), and only cost around $1 each (give or take 50 cents).  After the initial purchase, the only other step is remembering to bring them.

What’s so bad about plastic and paper bags?  In a nutshell, the amount of natural resources and energy used to produce them, and the amount of waste they produce.

Both plastic and paper bags can be recycled, but this process takes a lot of energy as well.  Before I switched to reusable bags, I thought paper bags were the best choice—I was wrong.  Paper bags actually take more energy to produce and to recycle than plastic!

If plastic bags are your go-to choice, think about this: once they’re in the environment, a plastic bag takes hundreds of years to breakdown.  As it does, toxic particles seep into soils, lakes, rivers, and oceans.  Are you a paper-bag person as I once was?  It takes a ton of trees to make all those bags.  This article describes the process in detail.

Solution? Reusable bags.  They are cheap, easy to use, and environmentally-friendly.  The benefits don’t stop there.

Reusable bag handles are:

  • Stronger.  Paper and plastic bag handles tend to break easily.
  • More comfortable.  Carrying a plastic bag full of something heavy can be painful!
  • More versatile.  I’ve even worn these bags on my shoulder while biking or walking home—I couldn’t do this with paper or plastic bags.

Last but not least, many stores (like Roth’s) will give a 5 cent discount for every bag you bring.  The bag pays for itself in no time!

Reusable Bags

I knew I could find common ground somewhere between my two seemingly-opposite majors of Electronic Arts and Environmental Policy.  What better than to write a blog about going “green”?  As an assignment for my MSCM 329 Digital Communication class this semester, I aim to share my experiences in the next few weeks about learning to tread more lightly on the Earth, and to shed some light on what “going green” is all about.

We’ve all heard the news about climate change and our addiction to fossil fuels–now what can we do to make a change?  I’ll be focusing on small actions that will make a big difference.

What is sustainability?  How do I compost?  Why recycle?  Can a few people really make a difference?  Next week, I’ll begin diving into these topics and more.  As for the last question, I think Margaret Mead answers it quite well:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Next week, I’ll dive in to the many small ways of making a big difference.
April 2010