Consider a typical week in your life. Lights are sometimes left on for the entire night, electronics remain plugged in without much thought, trash is collected with recyclables not filtered out and trash collectors take the week’s bags away, never to be thought of again.
Life goes on in a business-as-usual mind frame without questioning where electricity comes from and what renewable resources are being affected in our daily lifestyles.
My thoughts of energy consumption and resource usage have always been in a short-term mentality, without thinking of the consequences – that is until Richard Jurin, the director of the environmental studies program and associate professor of biology at UNC, assigned a “resource-usage diary” to my class that provided an eye-opening experience, just as he intended.
Jurin said the RUD was an awareness-raising and awakening project and a personal look at just how many resources we actually use individually.
“It’s hard to ignore once you set it down on paper and then extrapolate it up, and you get a shocking realization of how much is being used overall,” Jurin said.
Students in the sustainable living course experienced a first-hand account of the effects their lives and others living like them could make on the planet.
After a week of recording my own usage, it shocked me how much I consumed as one person.
The RUD provided many surprises, such as how much time my lights were left on without me taking notice or how much energy was wasted and sucked up from electronics still plugged in but not in use.
For Madeline Williams, a visual arts major, the RUD helped her gain an understanding of energy.
Williams said she already practiced conservation, and her habits have not changed much because of the RUD, but the diary helped her in a different manner.
“It was a good wake-up call to reaffirm my faith in conserving,” she said.
Many college students may not consider the resources and energy they use, or where our trash and recycling go after we take it to the bins.
But the time spent recording in an RUD can help students come to a realization of the effects one may be making on the planet, and hopefully bring students to opt for a sustainable life in which resources are consciously used in a way that will not affect future generations.
Jurin said everyone should compose an RUD to better understand why our parents told us to shut doors, turn off lights and other naggings.
“When you pay the bills, you come to realize that it all costs you lots of money to be comfortable,” he said. “The RUD makes you aware of cost and amount of stuff consumed.”
So, how can students live a sustainable life?
Jurin said living a more sustainable life is being more aware of one’s personal footprint.
“Cutting down on all forms of resource usage and then being aware of the choices that you make — often unconsciously — do make a difference,” he said. “Living mindfully and not mindlessly is a first step to making a huge difference without having to sacrifice anything of value. In fact, you may come to discover what you really do value, and it usually isn’t stuff or money.”
Margaret Meneghin, the University Program Council social and developmental director, provided some tips for both on- and off-campus students.
For students living off campus, Meneghin said students should bring their recycling to the campus recycling facilities and be conscious of lights left on and electronics plugged in when not in use.
For transportation, students can carpool or become more acquainted with public transportation and bike programs.
Being aware of where food comes from is another important tool to living a sustainable life, Meneghin said.
Supporting local businesses and purchasing local food and products is another great step to leading a sustainable life.
In celebration of Earth Day, the University of Northern Colorado is hosting its first sustainability fair.
The fair will be hosted from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. today at the University Center. Stop by to receive more information on how to reduce waste, receive sustainability tips, enjoy local artists and more.
Meneghin said she hopes students come away from the fair more aware of initiatives taking place on campus and be more aware of how to have an effect, whether it be recycling or taking part in reducing electronic waste. She said she would like students to be aware of what to recycle and where recycling facilities are on campus.
For more information and tips on how to be sustainable, attend the sustainability fair and visit the “20 ways to go green at school & in life” page available at UNC’s website.