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But How Can I Make an Impact?

A student’s guide to fighting climate change

By Bernadette Steele 

There’s no doubt about it­: Our climate is reaching a dangerous turning point.

With wildfires plaguing California and drought zapping our water reserves, heat waves reaching deadly levels, and the discussion of a new hurricane category to match their growing strength, it is easy to become hopeless.

Let’s set aside for a moment “how much” needs to change and focus instead on the little steps we can make as individuals to combat climate change.

On Campus

As a commuter school, students come from all over Southern California to attend CSUF. Dr. Matthew Kirby, a professor of geology and an expert in paleoclimatology, suggests that if you have to drive to campus you should park in the first spot you find regardless of its distance to your class.

“You’re going to drive to campus anyway,” he said. “Students tell me they’ll spend 45 minutes to an hour driving around campus looking for a spot.”

With the added benefit of exercise, parking farther away is an easy change.

Another way to reduce energy while you’re on campus is to use the stairs instead of elevators if you’re physically able to.

According to Trevis Matheus, an assistant professor of geography who specializes in climatology, elevators emit a large sum of the greenhouse gas emissions (G.h.G) here on campus. 

On the Go

The most important thing we should reduce is the amount of plastic waste we produce. As Dr. Jane Hall, a professor of economics and an expert in environmental management, stated via email: Throw-away plastic bottles are a major contribution to the waste stream and use vast amounts of petroleum to produce.

As a consumer a common misconception is that buying eco-friendly items offsets the effect of buying normal consumer goods. Although there is a sliver of truth to this, you still need to reduce the amount you are consuming regardless of if it is eco-friendly or not.

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, “up to 13 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year—the equivalent of a rubbish or garbage truck load’s worth every minute.” And coral that touches plastic has an 89 percent change of getting sick.

In the House

Hall, Kirby, and Matheus all stated that reducing the amount of red meat you consume and buying local plays a huge role in reducing your carbon footprint.

“That meat just came prepackaged, but that doesn’t account for the whole supply chain of feeding the animal, watering the animal, and transporting it just to get there,” he said.

At home, work on your water habits. Do laundry only when you have a full load, hang things to dry, shorten your shower time, and don’t run water while brushing your teeth or shaving. These 10 drying racks are apartment-friendly.

If you’re one of those people that constantly run the A/C, try raising the temperature a few degrees.

“If you have your air conditioning, does it have to be at 74? 76? Whatever your comfort is. Can it be at 77?” Matheus asks. “Is that degree really going to make that much of a difference?”

This small change may not seem like much, but it is one of those small steps one needs to take towards energy efficiency.

Another huge waste of energy at your home is a phenomenon called “phantom power.” (Spooky, huh?) Phantom power is when you leave your appliances plugged into an outlet even when you’re not using it, which creates an emission of CO2.

So unplug those fans, cell chargers, and computers unless they’re in used.

On Your Own Time

It is hard to get free time as a student, let alone find time to volunteer for a cause you care about.

But OROECO, a free app, makes it easy to both track your carbon footprint and to compete with friends over who has the smallest footprint.

But if you do happen to have the time you might consider volunteering for various organizations. When looking for an organization to work with, Kirby says you should ask yourself what role you want to play.

“Is it policy? Is it taking action? Is it getting out there and removing invasive species and planting more ecologically-friendly native species? Is it cleanup?” he asked.

Whether you’re into beach cleanups or community activism, there are dozens of environmental organizations in California.





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