Virginia Harris, Office for Sustainability Student Employee

After a nice summer vacation, students have settled in and begun their classes. If they’re anything like me, they are curious about all the key tricks and tips on how to make this year their most sustainable yet! To me, living sustainably means acting mindfully and consciously, leaving as minimal an impact on our Earth as possible. While I have certainly left several things out, here are my 7 ways, we, as a UVA community can live more sustainably this year:

Get involved!

UVA has many incredible CIOs that foster sustainability. Whether it's becoming a Sustainability Advocate or lobbying with Climate Action Society, students all across Grounds are working towards making the University more sustainable. Although the Fall Activities Fair has passed, several CIOs continue to want support and encourage engagement throughout the year— the sooner the better! Green Grounds, Growing for Change, Green Dining, Crafting for Conservation, and Greens to Grounds are all awesome examples of some CIOs making a difference for our beautiful Earth. Check out a full list of sustainable CIOs here.

Use Green Transportation

Get your steps in by walking to class, or, if you’re in a hurry, renting a UBike (more information here). Take the bus through Grounds or Barracks Road Shopping Center or catch the CAT to the downtown mall. If you’re unsure which bus or trolley to take, download the RiderandCATapplications on your phone. If you’re ambitious enough to drive through Charlottesville, carpool with friends!

Be smart about residential living

Recycle your empty cardboard boxes or use them for storage, reuse plastic bags as trash bags, and buy LED light bulbs for your lamps (and turn them out when you leave too!) In addition, use hand towels instead of paper towels, try to use reusable dishes, bowls, and silverware for your dorm room, rather than paper plates and plastic utensils, and be a conscious consumer!

Take advantage of the awesome volunteer opportunities

If joining a club with weekly meetings is too much of a commitment, grab some friends and volunteer at sustainable events and with organizations that promote sustainability! Check out Madison House, volunteer at the Football Game Day Challenge, help out at the Morven Kitchen Garden, or at the UVA Community Garden. There are so many organizations and groups on Grounds promoting sustainability where you can learn more, have fun, and make a positive change in Charlottesville.

Check out the ROSE program for school supplies

The ROSE Program (Reusable Office Supply Exchange) distributes office supplies from across UVA that has been gently or never used back to students and staff. If you have not finished getting all of your school supplies or realized you bought too much that you won’t be using, they are located in the Recycling warehouse at the end of Leake Drive and welcome students to come take or donate supplies for free! Their hours are Monday-Friday 8:00am-3:00pm.

Eat sustainably! 

If you have a meal plan, look for the foods labeled “local” at the salad bar and try to minimize your consumption of meat (Meatless Monday anyone?). If taking a meal to-go, check out the reusable to-go trays and coffee cups. If you’re like me and don’t have a meal plan, when eating on the go, pack your meals in glass containers and limit your use of plastic bags. Take reusable grocery bags when shopping too! Additionally, Greens to Grounds, is a CIO that provides boxes of local food weekly to students that they can order online.

Take a sustainability related course to get informed

If you have yet to finalize your schedule, there are plenty of classes offered at UVA related to sustainability. In addition to the majors, Environmental Thought and Practice, and Global Environments and Sustainability, there are several courses you can take to learn more about what it means to be sustainable. Check out a list of sustainable courses here.