There is no denying that the human impact on the environment has been primarily a negative one. Humans are the most polluting species, through over-consumption and over exploitation. All of our actions affect each other because as it turns out, we all share the same home, Earth. Let’s do whatever we can, big or small, to care for it!

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Here are 9 ways you can reduce your waste and help the environment. And did I mention that you can save money, too?!

1. Go Paperless

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As students, we know firsthand just how much paper we use in our every day lives. If we think about how much paper we each use, then think about how much is used by all the students a Brock. That’s a lot of unnecessary trees cut down. So what can you do? Try going paperless in different aspects of your life. Sign up for online billing, buy online books, textbooks and magazine subscriptions, air dry your hands and use cloth napkins instead of using paper towels. In class take notes on your computer and when handing in papers, double-side them (if allowed of course).

2. Make the most out of your products

Too much of the time we end of up throwing out perfectly useful products because we think they are at the end of their shelf life. A majority of our food and cosmetic products have expiry dates that imply they are spoiled before they actually are. This is primarily to cover any possible legal implications that may arise but more commonly enough it’s a tactic used to make us consume more. Don’t let expiriy dates prevent you from eating something or using a product. A few extra days won’t hurt but obviously use your own judgment!

3. Share, donate and buy locally.

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Let’s be honest. Our western society is quite obsessed with consumerism and consumption, making it difficult for us to differentiate between what we actually need versus what we want or desire. I admit, I am fully guilty of being swayed by the exhilaration of getting something brand new and shiny. But the reality is we are overproducing and over purchasing, especially when we already have so much on this earth. Instead of buying a book, movie, clothing, or many other products new, why not share or swap with a friend? Shop at thrift stores and when you find that you no longer want something or have too much of something, consider donating it! Finally, shop local. A lot of our food products come from out of country which means transportation costs and pollution. If you buy locally, you are also supporting your community! The St. Catharines Farmers Market happens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday all year round.

4. Walk, bike, bus or carpool. 

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Think twice before getting in the car. Taking alternative means of transportation can help reduce gas emissions. Carpooling is a great way to connect with others as you commute to school or work while potentially saving money. Walking or biking also have the added benefits of creating endorphins while reducing your carbon footprint.

5. Cut out the plastics 

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Sorry, I couldn’t resist with this gif but you get what I mean! Plastic is bad. It literally can not leave this planet once it’s produced. It’s taking up space in landfills and is increasingly polluting our oceans. You can help by being mindful of the amount of plastic you are using or purchasing. Stop buying bottled water and carry around a refillable bottle, use glass jars for storage, invest in a reusable shopping bag and recycle whenever possible.

6. Hand wash and air dry

Appliances such as blowdryers, dryer machines and dishwashers consume a lot of energy. Now and then consider skipping the appliances and use whatever clean air we have left to do the job.

7. Unplug everything 

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Think about how many electronics and appliances we have constantly plugged in, unaware of just how much energy they use. So before you leave home or go to sleep, consider unplugging things like your laptop and other energy suckers!

8. Research, Reflect and Reconsider

Finally, it’s important for us to understand a little bit more about the effects of our actions on our planet. Take some time to do a little investigative work on companies and their products. You’ll find out which ones contribute to the degradation of the environment, allowing you to make more ethical and conscientious decisions. For example, palm oil is used in many common products like baked goods, chocolate (such as Nestle), cosmetics, cleaning products and more. The industry is responsible for many major issues such as deforestation, climate change, and animal cruelty. Knowing more about where your products come from is the first step in making a difference to being more environmentally sustainable. I suggest we all reflect on why we engage in certain behaviours that we know are destructive to ourselves, others, the environment and animals. Once we have a better understanding of why we consume and waste the way we do, we can see that having more things does not equal happiness. This planet is the only home we’ll ever know, so let’s show it some love!

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9. Adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

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For the carnivores out there, I know what you’re thinking. How could you possibly give up meat? It’s so tasty and convenient, right? Well here’s the issue. Animal agriculture (aka the production of meat, eggs and dairy) is the largest human-caused contributor to the destruction of our planet.

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So why not challenge yourself to try a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, helping the environment in solidarity with our fellow animal friends. Even if you can’t fully go vegetarian or vegan (I get it, it can be hard… this is coming from a meat loving vegetarian) but try cutting back! Even just limiting your meat intake can make a difference!

If you’re interested in learning more about the animal agriculture industry’s impact on the environment, check out this great documentary, Cowspiracy!