Welcome! To begin with, I would like to introduce you to a good friend of mine; this is Fiona.
Fiona is a fellow student here at Illinois, and we recently had a conversation about her student life that I thought was worth sharing. Apparently, many people think living a “green” lifestyle isn’t worth the effort that you have to put into it. Over my time here at school I’ve met people that run the gamut from dumpster-diving communal-living hippies to honey-badger levels of disregard for the Earth. Fiona has seated herself in one of the most reasonable balances of pro-earth living and convenience. For the sake of cohesiveness, I’m going to highlight portions of our conversation that focus on three main concepts: what she does to reduce her carbon impact, how much time she spends working on this aspect of her life, and what she gets out of her effort. My hope is that by reading about Fiona’s you might gain a better understanding about how much, or little, effort it takes to life a better life as a college student.
Being Fiona’s roommate means that I know her day-to-day schedule pretty well; so this portion of the conversation felt more like I was drawing attention to portions of her schedule that she typically glosses over as she goes about her business. When asked about the subject the fist thing that came to her mind was the garden out back. When we moved into our domicile there was an abandoned garden in the backyard that had been made by a previous tenant. The garden is little more than a 5’x12′ raised dirt patch surrounded by some chicken wire. By having a garden outback, once or twice a year she gets to forgo produce trips to the grocer because she’s getting to pick it from her backyard. The garden has a rotating lineup of herbs and veggies, but this year got her tomatoes, squash, mushrooms, and an assortment of beans that she grew up the chain link fence surrounding our backyard. I asked her about the time commitment of the garden and was surprised to find that the answer was shockingly minimal. She’s been in charge of the garden for two years now and she claims that each season was about 3 hours of work one day at the beginning of the season, then whatever time it took to pick the vegetables when she wanted them. To quote her view on the subject, “I’m sure I could get more, better vegetables if I put more time into it, but I’m fine with the minimal commitment results”. This means that the garden yields less than it’s total potential, but the input required boils down to spending a late summer day outside. That’s a pretty good bargain from where I’m sitting.
Then next thing that she brought up was the compost bin that she brought to college. “This one’s a no-brainer to me” she told me, “…it means I don’t have food scraps making my garbage smell, and it helps with the garden.” As an active member of the trash producing humans in our house, I can attest to the benefits of having a compost bin. When I’m done eating something any food scraps go outside into a special bin that (ideally) keeps the smell of rotting food inside. Every so often Fiona will rotate the bin to keeps things churning, then once a year she can use the compost to help with the aforementioned garden. This one is an all around win win if you’re living in a house on campus. And there would surely be someone willing to take the compost if you didn’t have a garden of your own.
After this the conversation devolved into less specific, but equally effective and time efficient examples of behavior. She gets a lot of her produce from local co-ops to help support local growers (Fiona was raised as a resident of Urbana, so she has a vested interest in its well being). She is also a very active rock climber and advocates a leave no trace approach to enjoying the outdoors; although she just views this as being courteous to other climbers rather than as a favor to the Earth. And finally she ended on the habits that anyone who tries to lead an Earth-conscious life quotes. She recycles when she can, doesn’t waste what she doesn’t have to, bikes rather than drives whenever she can. These are all things that anyone can do, regardless of living situation.
I am a huge fan of Fiona in general, but I really find the way that she lives her life with respect to eco-friendliness admirable. She is very time efficient with regards to how she makes an impact. All of her eco-habits benefit her in some way (fresh produce, less smelly garbage, etc.) and she really doesn’t invest an unreasonable amount of time into these habits. This balance of usefulness and efficiency make Fiona’s lifestyle choices something to be modeled. Hopefully there was a habit in this post that you might be able to take away into your every-day life, but even if there wasn’t something specific; the take-away that I would like to leave you with is that living green doesn’t have to be that hard or time intensive. In fact, green habits are habits that can work for you.