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Move-in day is no excuse to pollute

University move-in days are a dumpster-diver’s dream and a conservationist’s nightmare.

At the start of every semester, students across the nation move in and out of dorms and apartments, leaving behind tons of trash. Piles of mattresses, mini-fridges and old televisions flipped on their sides, along with mounds of cardboard boxes, all crammed into an unforgiving dumpster.

The 21st century has for too long been a throw-away culture, and nothing can predict the future better than monitoring the habits of those who will one day graduate and start families of their own.

All too often we talk about our carbon footprints and global warming, but recycling and reducing the amount of trash we produce seems to remain on the back burner.

Department stores such as Target and Urban Outfitters sell environmentally conscious T-shirts, and all of a sudden it seems as though being aware of our impending doom is just as trendy as the iPhone. There is an irony to be discussed when we start buying to show our awareness for reducing our footprints. That glossy plastic bag that those catchy shirts came in just might be here long after the earth warms and floods us all.

So how can we put this theory into practice? I think it starts with packaging. A new desk comes in a massive cardboard box, with a few pieces of that dreaded Styrofoam and some plastic bags to hold the manual and whatever pieces that will hold the cheaply produced product together.

Now, move-in day is an incredible hassle, and by the end there is contemplation on whether living out of boxes may be easier than unpacking. But I have to remind those of you who are just now attending USF and those of you who are leaving that there is a better way, and I encourage everyone to take the garbage that will be produced during this year’s move-in and recycle as much as possible.

I can hear the groans and moans as people read this. “You mean take trash, put it into my car and drive it to the University recycling center? You tree-hugger, that’s ridiculous.”

While so often overlooked, plastics, which make up more than 5 percent of the world’s petroleum production, are shipped by trucks that are powered by petroleum and are produced by machines that use (drumroll please) PETROLEUM!

Almost everything we consume in life can be connected to oil, and packaging may be one of the largest and most disregarded of the bunch. But it doesn’t stop there. Plastics don’t break down like organic matter such as paper bags. Without something to compost it, the plastics we throw away will be buried in the earth’s crust for thousands of years unless we start to take a stand now. So recycle and donate unneeded belongings to a thrift store. We all know the old adage about one man’s trash.

Take the boxes, break them down and recycle them. And all of those water bottles that were slaughtered after trips up and down the stairs carrying boxes: recycle them too. Most Publix Supermarkets have a bin to recycle old plastic bags, so save and take them with you the next time you buy groceries.

As for “old” appliances or pieces of furniture that will be rendered useless at a new dwelling, find out if a friend would like it, or better yet, donate it to a Salvation Army. Throwing out televisions, printers and mini-fridges that still run properly is not only an incredible waste, it is an environmental hazard. The elements of televisions and computers must be recycled and disposed of properly or they will contaminate our landfills for years to come. Check with the Hillsborough County waste management to find out when the next biohazard drop-off will be and dispose of it then.

It’s elementary, really. If people use those three magical words – reduce, reuse and recycle – that were burned into our brains throughout our childhood, we can decrease our oil consumption and reduce the amount of trash being dumped into the ground.