What does it look like for the average college student to practice sustainability?
Maybe images pass through your head of what was modeled in cartoons and beginner’s science textbooks as a child: picking up litter, recycling, planting a garden, varying shades of the color green…
Or perhaps you’re an Environmental Science major, and class discussions are ringing in your ears — these textbooks take a bit of a different approach than kid’s TV programming.
Likely, you find yourself somewhere in the middle. You’ve had conversations about creation care in Foundations class as a freshman. You know how to keep plants alive. Maybe you even participate in a family or community garden effort.
We know we should be passionate about sustainability, but sometimes we don’t know where to start.
For the believer, the call to practice sustainability is the call to practice stewardship.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” David writes in Psalm 24:1.
In Psalm 8, the writer praises the Lord for his majesty and sovereignty in trusting mankind to take care of the earth he created.
Paul joins David in his acknowledgement of the Lord’s supremacy over creation, writing to the believers at Colossae in Colossians 1:16: “all things have been created through him and for him.”
Understanding the responsibility that has been given to us by the Creator God should instill in us a deep reverence and humility.
Faithful stewardship is a lifelong pursuit, and it looks different for everyone.
It can sometimes be hard to believe that, in the grand scheme of things, what we do with what we have makes a difference. It can also be hard to give when we feel like we don’t have much to give, or to be excited about sustainable living when the idea of creation care feels like a huge topic to tackle.
Yet, every Christ follower is empowered to live as a careful steward of the Earth and of the possessions that have been placed in their hands. We must resist apathy and begin to take seriously what the Lord calls us to.
How should college-aged students approach such a lifestyle on their campus, where a busy schedule and a — well — lacking budget seem to be two of the biggest detractors to sustainable living?
There are several habits that everyone can engage in, no matter where you’re at. Here are some suggestions for sustainable swaps to introduce into your daily routine:
Trade paper towels for reusable towels, cotton rounds for reusable cloth pads and plastic grocery bags for canvas tote bags.
When you’re in the market for something new, first consider thrifting — it’ll save money, give you a new, unique piece and reduce waste.
Don’t throw old clothes away. Do some research and recycle to the appropriate location, give them to a friend in need or even sell them using sites like Poshmark or Depop.
Consider purchasing shoes from sustainable brands; especially now that your size is consistent, you can invest in a pair that will last a long time. Thousand Fell is a company that sells “closed loop” footwear — shoes that are both produced from recycled materials and can be recycled and made into another pair when returned to the company. Check it out!
What is a college student without their emotional support water bottle? Plan to bring your reusable water bottle with you so that you don’t need to buy a plastic bottle or use plastic straws.
When you’re sitting and enjoying a coffee on campus, ditch the lid and straw and just sip out of the cup itself.
At the grocery store, refuse to print a receipt when you don’t need one. Choose the option to email it to yourself or write down what you spent instead.
Look into using secondhand textbooks and class materials, and don’t throw away your half-used notebooks! Tear out the old pages and use it again.
Whenever possible, say no to Amazon Prime two-day shipping; that way, your purchases will come in fewer packages (and you’ll find that you’re okay to wait an extra day).
Support brands that are working to slow the effects of fast fashion and engage in sustainable production practices. Girlfriend Collective, for example, is a high-quality activewear brand that recycles the product of the dye that they use to pavement companies for the creation of sidewalks and roads.
You don’t need to invest a lot of money or time into sustainable living. Incorporating these small habits into your lifestyle won’t be a burden — and they’ll certainly pay off in the long run.
Ultimately, nurturing a life of sustainability takes great intentionality. Be encouraged to know the Lord is pleased when we become faithful stewards of what he has blessed us with, in both attitude and action.