5 Ways to Go Green on Campus

A group of people are sitting in the grass with their hands and feet making a circle.

As if college students didn’t already have enough to worry about between studying, working, and finding time to sleep, it seems there’s one more thing to add to the list: doomsday!

…Not really. But it certainly seems that way sometimes when you take a look at the environment around you. In fact, The New York Times stated that if the world doesn’t step up its efforts, the planet “could be locked into a future of extreme storms, droughts, food and water shortages, and rising sea levels.” Thankfully, this prediction is both unlikely and far off, so no, you don’t have to brush up on your cool, video-game worthy apocalypse skills. But there are ways you can make a difference, both here on campus and in your everyday life.

Leading the charge to eco-friendliness here on campus is Joe Whitefield, assistant vice president for MTSU Facilities Services and co-director of the Center for Energy Efficiency. Together with Dr. Kathy Mathis, co-director and associate professor, the Center has implemented countless sustainability projects like pervious concrete sidewalks, recycling and stormwater programs, and traffic management to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The campus benefits from reliable, cost-effective, more environmentally friendly utilities,” Whitefield said. “A green campus is one that provides economic and environmental benefits.  These include lower utility costs and a more attractive campus environment.”

So, how can students help keep our beautiful green utopia alive? “Going green” may seem daunting at first, but there are a few easy steps that can make huge differences in your life, your campus, and your community.

1) Get a Reusable Water Bottle

Clear MTSU reusable water bottles sit on a shelf in the MTSU Phillip's Bookstore.

Did you know that the average annual spending on bottled water in the US is over $12 trillion? Each American uses on average more than 180 bottles a year, and 91% of those are never recycled. On top of that, the cumulative price of bottled water is 2000% greater than tap water. Having your own reusable water bottle is a great way to help the environment, while also saving money (and honestly, isn’t that the most important thing in college?) You can choose your favorite color, decorate it with stickers, or even get a cool MTSU water bottle to show off you school spirit! MTSU even has countless water fountains conveniently spread all over campus for when you need a refill.

Bonus Tip: For all of the coffee and tea lovers, a ceramic mug is your go-to for eco-friendliness! Not only will it keep your drinks hotter longer, but it will be more cost efficient in every way. Starbucks, for example, gives you a discount if you bring in a Starbucks re-useable cup. Cute coffee cups, plus discounts? Win-win all around!

2) Recycle More

An MTSU recycling bin sits on a sidewalk, surrounded by green grass and a tree.

This seems like a pretty obvious one, but somehow, we still forget about it. Did you know that out of the 258 million tons of trash that Americans produce, only 34% gets recycled? Just by recycling one ton of our plastic trash alone, we could save up to 5,774Kwh of energy! Although students don’t make nearly that amount of trash, we can still do our fair share in helping.

“Proper disposal of trash and recyclables makes the campus look better and keeps cleanup costs down,” said Whitefield, who is no stranger to recycling, since the Center for Energy Efficiency, along with the Facilities Services Department, manage the recycling program on campus. Thanks to their hard work, students can enjoy easy access to recycling depositories all over campus. Recycling your daily water bottles, coffee cups, and mountains of unwanted papers will not only keep your desk clean but keep your campus clean as well.

3) Carpooling

Carbon emissions are one of the biggest threats to our environment today. With over 6,587 million metric tons of CO2 being produced each year in the US alone, and 27% solely from vehicles, it’s a problem we need to face. But how can we help fight such a huge problem from campus? A popular solution that is full of advantages, and yet frequently overlooked, is carpooling! Even for just a few days a week, carpooling can have serious benefits for your stress, your budget, and the environment.

Since carpooling cuts down on the number of vehicles on the road, that means there is less CO2 being produced that could pollute the air, water, and land around you. Carpooling also cuts down on the amount of gas you have to purchase, further lessening the amount of harmful pollutants you release. And finally, carpooling saves you an amazing amount of money on gas, which means you can hoard those pennies even more. Once you set up a system to rotate cars, the more people you fit in your car, the more you can save. So have fun, make friends, and most importantly, save the environment along with your wallet!

4) Grow some Green


Why just “go green” when you can literally grow green? With the simple addition of a few little plants, you can drastically improve the air quality in your living space while creating a cozy, peaceful, and Instagram-ready study nook.

When you breathe, your body exhales carbon dioxide and inhales oxygen. But during photosynthesis, plants release oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide, as well as various toxins. This opposite pattern makes houseplants very beneficial to keeping your air healthy and toxin free.

So what are the best plants for a student budget and student lifestyle? If you’re looking for an air filter, your best bet lies with a Spider plant or English Ivy, which are both rated by NASA as some of the best air purifiers for small living spaces (and, thankfully, are hard to kill, which is helpful for forgetful students.) If you’re looking for plants that are beneficial to sleep, the two best plants to purchase are Jasmine, which reduces anxiety, deepens sleep, and increases alertness during the day, and a Snake Plant, which emits very high amounts of oxygen to help you sleep more deeply and wake more refreshed.

Whatever your choice, you can’t go wrong with mixing a little more green into your life. For more plants that are ideal for college students, check this site out.

5) Get on board with Reusable Grocery Bags

A reusable grocery bag hangs in front shelves of vegetables. On the bag is an illustration of vegetables with the caption "I totes love veggies."

A reusable grocery bag from the online blog and store ‘Peas and Hoppiness.”


Reusable grocery bags have been on the rise the past few years as a handy alternative to single-use plastic bags. Plastic bags take a significant amount of petroleum to create, and are almost never recycled, which ends with them often polluting waterways and streets. But there are endless possibilities when you use reusable bags.

Primarily, their seemingly impossible strength. Go ahead and test them – these bags will do more than carry your groceries. Pack those textbooks, energy drinks, and endless amounts of snacks in there. Pack your whole dorm into these bags. They can take it, and probably in one trip.  

There are, of course, even more benefits besides their superhuman-like strength. Reusable bags help us with one of the most common problems of adulthood: the ever-present stash of plastic bags. We all have that one stash, lurking in the corners of our house. Get rid of it and replace it with a reusable bag. You’ll be glad you did.

There are countless ways that you can help the environment, both on and off campus. The most important thing is to stay informed about what’s happening to the environment around you. Pay attention to activities by Student Organizations here on campus, such as Students for Environmental Action. But most importantly, take small steps in your everyday life to make your campus a better place. The environment, your health, and your wallet will all thank you for it!