I hope it’s no secret that environmental activism at its root is a lifestyle. When you truly care about a cause, it is embedded in everything you do. Us environmentalists may occasionally be characterized by excessive quantities of turning off the lights, shutting off the tap, and obsessive recycling, but it’s simply because these actions have become a second nature for us. They are instinctual behaviours, conceived of a true level of caring and passion for our planet and the environment.
As with any movement, it is the behaviors of a few that slowly lead to change. And while environmental activism is a widely accepted cause, this is not the same as being a widely adopted practice. The difference is acknowledgement compared to action. We are lucky, in that most Canadian universities host student bodies in which the realities that face the environment are widely recognized, yet somehow the majority of students live life in the passenger seat; taking a path of inaction and apathy. This can become especially difficult in living situations, when any number of students live together under one roof. These scenarios are always rife for conflict, vastly due to the diverse upbringings of each individual and the unique values that any one may hold. Often times being one of the few who practice environmentalism can be isolating, and we can find ourselves an outlying voice amidst those who have grown lax in society’s environmental norms. All of a sudden, maintaining our practices can become difficult and burdensome.
So the question remains: how can we as environmentalists ensure that we continue to live in a green household? Well consider the following a short handbook, a list of strategies and tools that can be used to slowly nudge your house towards literal greener pastures. As you’ll see it’s simply all about incentives, social drivers which affect everyone differently. Unlike your own environmental genes, your housemates may not get as uncontrollably giddy at the thought of saving a baby seal, but there are other incentives to touch upon.
This tip relies on the deepest of modern-day drivers: money. If your housemates are prone to taking 30 minute showers or luxurious candle-lit baths, then simply direct them to your utility bill. To take it one step further, don’t stop at the bathroom, the kitchen can be a huge drain *pun intended* on your utility bill as well. When finally tackling that monstrous load of dishes, instead of letting the sink run, plug it up and allow the basin to fill. This will give you a nice vat of soapy water that you can use to clean your dishes. Limit yourself to a certain quantity of water to become more conscious of how much you use.
I’m an early riser, but by product often the first to bed in my house. This often means I stumble drowsily down the stairs each morning to find a plethora of devices left switched on throughout the night. A television, an amplifier, the occasional panini maker- most often a combination of three devices whose conjoined use astonishes me. As such, it is again important to point to that final bottom line – your utility bill. Relate the draining of electricity to the draining of their money! Other strategies include leaving adorable paper notes taped to the wall as reminders to turn off devices before leaving the common area. In extreme cases I give you permission to use less adorable and perhaps more profane paper notes. You may find there is both greater amusement and greater results from the latter.
Reducing Food Waste
Being more efficient in our use of food is one of the primary ways in which we can reduce our environmental impact. Most applicable to us students are the concepts of reducing household food waste and decreasing the quantity of meat in our diet. You’ll find for the former that there are two simple solutions- their names are Tupperware and sharing! Most households should already be quite efficient with their use of Tupperware, but if you can’t finish a meal look to the fridge NOT the trash! This concept goes deeper than meal prep. Have leftovers after eating out? Bring it home to keep in the fridge. And here’s where that sharing part comes in: offer it to your housemates! Most students, especially those on a budget, can be territorial over their food to the point of mamma-bear-like ferocity. Give yourself a week to see the effects of what sharing leftover food can do. You may just find that there are shockingly karmic results.
Sharing food works well, because everyone is excited to eat more than their share, yet the tricky part is in convincing your housemates to eat green i.e. eating less meat. Sadly, nowadays this can only be done with trial and error. Fortunately, the process doesn’t have to be tedious. With your housemates, agree on a side of vegetables to splice into your house meals each day/week/month/year (circle one depending on your ideal vegetable intake). As you convince your housemates that vegetables are indeed not the antichrist, you can attempt to up the ante. Your next landmark is a group meal with no meat, with vegetables as the main course. Remember however, the goal is not to perform Pavlovian-esque dietary experiment on your housemates, but it is to convince your house that a life with less meat is possible! In western culture we take meat for granted, which has led to the booming of the meat and agriculture industry, which we understand causes a variety of unintended effects on our environment. For this tip, we recommend time, patience, and a solid recipe book!
So there you have it. A few ways in which you can slowly ease your environmental conscience at home. Keep in mind this is nothing if not an imperfect science. This may be, in fact, the least perfect science of them all, but it matters not. The difference is in the effort to become more green, the intention you show, and the passion with which you approach this task. We all deserve to have our values shared amongst our living spaces, and as environmentalists there are so many ways in which we can better our university living experiences. It is after all a lifestyle, a way to live and act each day; so what’s the point at the end of it all if you don’t share your life with friends.