Green Piece: How students can keep America from becoming a carbon nation

In a time when being “green” is in vogue and arguably a planetary necessity, college students may be happy to know that they too can take part in this save-the-world trend. And it’s probably easier than you think. Even the most notorious entertainment-consuming students can follow a few simple guidelines to live a greener existence.

The average day of the average student probably goes something like this: wake up, shower, drink coffee, check e-mail, commute to school or work and listen to your mp3 player on the way to (or maybe during) class.

The good news is that making your day greener doesn’t mean sacrificing any of these things – it just means going about them a little differently.

Coming CleanLet’s start with the shower. By reducing your shower time by just two minutes, you could save 10 gallons of water, according to The Green Book. If everyone in America were to cut one gallon of water from their showers, it would equal twice the amount of water drawn daily from the Great Lakes (the world’s largest freshwater source).

Caffeinated ConscienceWhen it’s time to caffeinate, stifle the urge to sip from paper or Styrofoam. Instead, use a coffee or travel mug if you’re in a rush. It keeps unnecessary waste from clogging landfills and can even keep some funds in your bank account: You can save money at Starbucks if you bring in your own mug – and pay the price for a tall even if your mug is a grande.

Technology: UnpluggedA computer is one of the most crucial parts of any college student’s existence. They’re good for school, work, social networking and entertainment. But they also come with a hidden evil: the ability to suck the life out of your power supply, thus fattening up your utility bill. Fear not, because you can fight back. By changing your power settings to energy save, shutting down the computer instead of letting it go into sleep mode and turning off your power strip when it’s not in use, you can green the planet while saving some green of your own. Simply by reducing a computer’s power usage, the average American could save about $75 per year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Fun fact: Even if an electronic device isn’t turned on, it still uses power if it’s plugged in. If everyone in the United States were to unplug their electronic devices when not in use, it could save a collective sum of $1 billion yearly in wasted energy. Roughly 5 percent of all electricity consumed by Americans comes from the standby power on electronics. So tell your roommates that even though it’s annoying to have to mind the plug on the TV every time they use it, at least you’re not wasting money on power you’re not even using!

Hitchhiker’s guide to being greenA good reason to bum rides to school from friends: Carpooling can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If you don’t have a willing friend, try the carpool matching service at If riding in cars with strangers just doesn’t sound appealing, take public transportation or the Bull Runner – they’re both free to students with a valid USF ID. If you still need a reason to give up some transportational freedoms, just think of the lovely things you could buy with the money you used to spend on gasoline.

TrashcastingSince this is the iPod generation, it should be no surprise that 40 percent of the lead in U.S. landfills comes from improperly disposed electronics. When you trade in your already tiny mp3 player for one that’s so small you need a toothpick just to press the buttons, return the old device to the manufacturer or find an e-waste collection service. Some companies even offer rebates for turning in old devices or will take a percentage off of your next purchase. So take advantage of these green initiatives to help reduce waste and pollution – and save some green for yourself.