Simple suggestions for a sustainable Earth Day

Make recycling fun with suggestions from Temple environmentalists.

Tomorrow is Earth Day, and it’s the time of year when many feel guilty about their dwindling recycling habits. Some might feel the need to pitch in and stem the guilt by cleaning up litter or planting a tree. For some nontraditional ways to give back to planet Earth, take a look at this list for some less common – but just as easy – ways of reducing impacts on the environment.

Reuse those special red cups

Geography and urban studies professor Benjamin Neimark and his Sustainable Environments class want you to think about the last party you attended. As the music faded and guests trickled out, the area was probably littered with red plastic cups used to hold a certain carbonated substance college students have been known to enjoy.

Neimark wants you to imagine how many of those cups were thrown away in a landfill rather than a recycling bin. Next time, save those cups for the next party. Plastic cups are easy to wash and can go in the dishwasher a couple of times. See how many uses you can get out of one, and challenge your friends to do the same.

Convince nonbelievers
Global warming has been confirmed by a majority of scientists as a serious threat to the Earth. However, some people choose to deny the consensus because they love their gas-guzzling SUVs or refuse to believe anything Al Gore says because of their political views. Politely convince nonbelievers by referring them to study materials and explain why putting in a little effort to reduce their impact can help.

Rent, don’t buy
Textbooks can often be found at the top of the list of college students’ biggest expenses. Bookstores charge top dollar for textbooks and then buy them back for a fraction of the original cost.

“There is a Web site where you can rent books for a semester and then mail them back,” said Dina Maslennikova, a sophomore geography and urban studies major and Students for Environmental Action member. “The Web site also plants a tree for each book it rents out.”

Try next semester. According to the Web site, students can rent and return textbooks and pay about 60 percent less than they would at a bookstore. This theory helps the environment in two ways – by reusing books and supporting the site’s tree planting. If you decide the book is worth keeping, you can change from rental to purchase at any time.

Student groups are a great vehicle for change.

“We’re dealing with a young, educated group of people who are energetic and politically active,” Neimark said. “They can get the job done.”

Become a political advocate for environmental change. Write to your congressmen. Request that your friends reuse and recycle. Take your own knowledge, and teach others what you have learned. Get involved.

No more new clothing
Instead of going to a chain clothing store to buy a new T-shirt, arrange a clothing swap with your friends. Have everyone go through their closets and pick pieces that don’t fit or are no longer wanted and arrange a trade. This is a great way to freshen your wardrobe with no detriment to the environment or to your wallet.

Shop in second-hand stores whenever possible. Philadelphia is a great city for vintage shopping, and every time you purchase a second-hand item, you reduce carbon emissions from clothing factories. Create a unique look with vintage clothing rather than buying mass-produced Abercrombie & Fitch pieces. The planet will thank you for it, and you’ll look fantastic.

Laura Standley can be reached at

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