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Earth Day activities: Celebrate college style

Jenna Johnson

Unless you are living off the grid, you know by now that today is Earth Day. And many college students celebrate hard on Earth Day -- we are talking planting trees, recycling beer cans, demanding that professors accept papers via e-mail and showering with a friend to save water.

Wait, you haven't already carefully planned out your Earth Day activities? Sigh. Well, luckily other college students are more green-minded than you are and can offer these inspiring ideas:

Pay more in student fees.
St. Mary's College of Maryland students voted 1,005 to 75 to add a $25 per year student fee to purchase green energy (so far this school year they have bought more than 17 million kilowatt-hours, which is like reducing the college's carbon dioxide output by about 2,000 cars).

University of Georgia students approved a new $3 green fee to pay for starting an office of sustainability. At American University, about 67 percent of students voted to increase student activity fees by $10 to pay for clean energy (the trustees still need to approve everything). Texas State University has had a $1 student environmental fee since 2004, and uses the money for things like TV and computer recycling, and taking care of the San Marcos River.

Ride a bike.
The University of Denver is part of a city-wide bike sharing program that was started after the 2008 Democratic National Convention with a donation from the DNC. Students can swipe a card on a solar-powered bike rack, check out a bike and return it when they are done. Right now there are more than 35 kiosks with about 600 bikes.


Stop wasting dorm food.
Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., has been cutting food waste in its dorms by offering three a la carte meal plans. The thinking is that when students pay each piece of food they eat, they usually waste less. The Lutheran liberal arts college estimates it has reduced its food waste by 85 to 90 percent.

Lobby for a cause.
At Georgetown University, students in a Shaping National Science Policy class split into three groups, picked a cause and learned how to be a lobbyist. One of the groups has focused on trying to get businesses to reduce the use of disposable bags. The group came up with a resolution, which will be introduced by Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.) on Earth Day. The other two groups focused on climate change and implementing bike-sharing programs.

Go on a low-carbon diet.
At Hamilton College in New York, the cafeterias are planning to reduce their carbon footprint today. That means limiting beef and cheese, because the livestock industry is a major greenhouse gas contributor, and eating more turkey burgers and falafel. They are also reducing the amount of air-freighted food in favor of local and in-season produce, and skipping packaged and processed snacks in wasteful packaging.

Shop at a farmer's market.
Rather than purchasing food that has been shipped all over the world, shop at a local farmers' market -- and in the process, financially support your area agriculture. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is hosting its first on-campus market on Earth Day.

Green-ify your laundry routine.
Only do laundry when you have a full load. Combine your stuff with your roommate's stuff. Opt for cold water. And if you are a students at Salisbury University in Maryland, check out their high-efficiency laundry units.


Drive a hybrid.
Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Penn. will offer preferred parking for hybrid vehicles at its new Science Center. The $33 million, 75,000-square-foot building opens this fall and is on track to receive Silver LEED certifications.

Learn about "Viesel."
Dickinson College in Pennsylvania says it is the first college in the country to adopt Viesel, a renewable fuel made from used vegetable oil, as a power source.

Wear a green graduation gown.
Environmentally friendly graduation robes are totally in style this spring. Graduates of Harper College outside of Chicago will sport biodegradable gowns, rather than ones that need to be dry-cleaned and trucked around. At Hamilton College in New York, students will wear robes made of recycled plastic bottles. At Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., students will wear gowns they already own, which are earned during their academic careers and often passed down (aka recycled) over generations and worn to class. In addition to being green, it's very Harry Potter.

Switch your font.
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is changed its e-mail font to Century Gothic, which uses roughly 30 percent less ink when printed on paper.

Guess what? Today isn't just Earth Day. It is also Help Me Blog Day. So, e-mail and tell me what to add to the list.

Follow Campus Overload all day, every day at http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  April 22, 2010; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  News Overload  
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