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Student’s Survival Guide: Big footprint? Small Steps!

A few cheap ways to live more sustainably

St. Patrick’s Day has made me think about green. Not just about the colour, but about going green. With the threat of climate change always looming over us, this green holiday is a good excuse to stop and take stock of our footprint. 

Organic produce, eco-friendly gadgets and solar panels on rooftops can have hefty price tags and feel out of reach for the average student. But there are smaller ways that even you can make a difference.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

Getting food from the farm to your table has a larger footprint than you might think. 15 per cent of the world’s annual global fossil fuel usage, equivalent to the total emissions produced by the European Union and Russia, are used in food production. 

Food production also accounts for 66 per cent of the world’s total water consumption. Approximately 240 gallons of water are used to produce a loaf of bread, 46 gallons are used to produce a single small soda and 718 gallons are used to produce a pound of pork. But what happens to the excess food that you toss afterward?

The average Canadian family wastes almost 310 lbs (about the weight of a sumo wrestler) of food every year. Annually, 2.2 million tonnes of food, or four times the empty weight of the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa, is wasted in Canada. Everyone can work to reduce that number by only buying what they need. 

Embracing that Value Village charm

Instead of buying new clothes from fast fashion stores, consider shopping second hand. Making the trip to Bayer’s Lake is worth it for its huge Value Village alone. There are many other second-hand stores in Halifax, and I urge you to check them all out. Some of my favourites are the Loot Vintage, Lost & Found and the Grateful Wardrobe.

The life cycle of clothing in fast fashion is short and meant to make the consumer keep buying new clothes. Just like the food industry, it takes a lot of resources to make that sweater you found on Shein and fast fashion is a major contributor to water pollution. It takes about 2,700 litres or 18 bathtubs full of water to make one cotton T-shirt.

Reimagine! Repurpose! Reuse!

Using what you already have is the best thing you can do as a student to make your footprint a whole lot smaller. Got an old T-shirt in the back of your closet? Make some stitches and turn it into a tote bag! Clean out your pasta sauce jar to use as a vase! There are so many opportunities to lengthen the life of an object that you would otherwise toss or recycle. 

The same can be done with food. By using every bit of that whole Superstore BBQ chicken, you are reducing the amount of edible food that would have otherwise been wasted in the compost. Make some nutritious chicken noodle soup with the bones! 

Educate yourself and your friends!

Taking a sustainability elective at Dal or even just doing some online self-education can be incredibly helpful to living a more sustainable lifestyle. If you’re interested in learning more, but don’t want to commit to the classes, Dal’s College of Sustainability hosts free lectures on Thursday nights. They have a wide range of topics including Indigenous perspectives, the impacts of the climate crisis and social justice. Video recordings can also be found on their website

This year, make an effort to be sustainable before Earth Day rolls around this April!

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