When seeing news article after news article about the shape of our environment, our society and our economy it can become daunting on how to make a positive change. The question may become, “What can I do?”

However, whether you’re a student, staff, faculty or community member there are a variety of ways that you can make a difference. And when we collectively work together for positive changes, the state of our situations can begin to change for the better. Here are some ideas to jump start your efforts:

Civic Engagement

Think about the sustainability issues that matter to you most, whether they be on a social, economic or environmental level. Now think about how those issues translate into current state and national politics.

Whether you become involved in the Missouri Students Association (the undergraduate student government at MU) or attend City council meetings on Monday evenings, becoming civically engaged with your community can bring additional voices to sustainability issues of all sizes. This can also allow you to see and understand viewpoints different from your own.

Additionally, doing thorough research and voting for candidates as well as issues on your state level is equally as important as voting on a national level. We must recognize our voices matter and voting as well as becoming involved in our communities can go a long way.

Consume Less

In 1980 the average American produced 3.66 lbs of waste a day. Almost 40 years later, our population and our amount of waste has grown. As previously stated, today the average American produces 4.48 lbs of waste per day. Before you throw out that ripped shirt or that outdated cell phone consider one of the following:
1.) Can this item be repaired by me or someone I know? Columbia frequently offers free fix-it fairs that can help aid you in this process.
2.) Can I repurpose this item in some other way? That extra dresser might make a neat dining room buffet table with a new can of spray paint.
3.) Can this item be donated to a local thrift shop rather than placed in the trash? One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
4.) How much more life does this item have before I actually need to purchase a replacement?

Bonus: you will expand your knowledge of repairs and have extra cash in your pockets by consuming less.

Reusable Mugs to Grab Coffee

As much as we would like for the single-use coffee cup to be recyclable, unfortunately the waxy paper material it is made up of prevents us from being able to throw it in the paper bin. The one-use cup winds up in a nearby landfill, taking more than 20 years to decompose. Despite this frustrating fact, all hope is not lost. Consider grabbing a reusable thermos or water bottle and asking your barista to fill your order in it.

Don’t have a reusable water bottle? Don’t worry! Our office has you covered, so feel free to stop by W112 Virginia Ave. Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Bonus: often times, coffee shops offer a discount when you bring your own thermos/water bottle, whether you order inside or at the drive-through.

Recycle More and Recycle Right

On average, each individual in the United States produces 4.48 lbs of waste a day. And according to the EPA, more than 75 percent of the waste produced in the U.S. is recyclable. Take a moment to learn what materials are recyclable and pledge to do your part today. Even if you start small and recycle only plastic bottles this summer, every bit counts toward helping our environment.

Learn More About Sustainability

When you hear the word “sustainability” do you immediately think of issues regarding the environment? While you’re not alone in your thinking, sustainability encompasses so much more than placing your plastic bottle in the correct recycling bin. Sustainability is made up of three pillars: environment, social and economic. Each pillar is intertwined and we cannot work toward a sustainable world without acknowledging the importance of all three sectors.

Consider watching documentaries, listening to presentations or reading articles that cover these topics. Even if you watch one documentary every two months, you’re still opening your mind up to something new. We offer a variety of Student Ambassador presentations (great option for groups, classrooms or offices) and a free monthly newsletter (great option for individuals) to help you get started.

Join a New Organization

Are you looking for a way to become more involved on campus or within the community? Consider joining one of many campus or community organizations dedicated to helping others and/or helping the environment. From Mizzou Eco Racing to Missouri River Relief, there’s something for everyone. Bonus: the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and expand your network of connections!

Environmentally-Friendly Products

Do you use a plastic toothbrush or a bamboo toothbrush? Have you ever thought about the process your makeup goes through to wind up on your bathroom counter? Or have you ever considered that there may be toilet paper brands that are more environmentally-friendly than others? These questions allow the wheels to start turning and before you know it, you’ll be Googling, “Sustainable hygiene or beauty products.” Small daily changes can make a difference overall.

Learn More About Others

In order to understand each other, we must acknowledge our differences and the qualities that make us unique. In honor of the social pillar of sustainability, consider attending an event or visiting a center on campus that can help expand your social sustainability knowledge. MU Campus divisions and centers include: Mizzou Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Division, Multicultural Center, LGBTQ Center, Women’s Center, Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, Disability Center, MizzouEd Bridge and RSVP Center.

Travel More by Foot or Bicycle

Did you know transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions? When possible, try commuting to nearby businesses via foot or bicycle. Walking and biking are both pollution-free options of traveling and a great way to get in your daily dose of exercise. And thanks to GetAbout Columbia, there’s an ever-increasing amount of bikeways, pedways and sidewalks throughout the city.

If you cannot travel by foot or bicycle the next best thing is to consider public transportation before choosing to operate a personal automobile.

Bonus: you might discover new trails and quicker routes to school or work when traveling via bicycle.

Use Your Talents

Whether you’re a writer or an engineer, we all play a part in this world. One of the best ways to figure out how to help is to use your talents to create positive changes. Each individual plays a key role in making this Earth more sustainable for future generations to come.