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Navigating Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions for College Students

Sam Bowman

Navigating Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions for College Students

Climate change has caused a global crisis that requires all inhabitants of our planet to make a difference. As of May 2024, global temperatures have continuously risen to record-breaking highs for an entire year straight, and it doesn’t seem like that trend will slow down any time soon. From melting glaciers to increasingly extreme weather events, the implications for the future are profound and far-reaching.

As you traverse the halls of your college campus, remember that now is as perfect a time as any to make an impact. While you face unique challenges when you’re in college, you can take steps to adapt and contribute toward a more sustainable future — for yourself and the entire planet.

The Importance of Addressing Climate Change on Campus

College is an educational environment in which budding professionals seek to innovate and expand the world as we know it. This opportunity for in-depth exploration into climate science, policy, and sustainability is unmatched. As a student, you have the chance to gain a keen awareness of the interconnectedness between the environment and socioeconomic systems — guiding you to make a difference using your specialized skills. On-campus researchers can provide you with the mentorship and resources necessary to further your climate action goals.

Furthermore, the sheer volume of students and reach of college connections allows for the amplification of voices for change. Living and working on a connected campus allows you and other students to have sway over how things are run. Ideally, you can champion eco-friendly choices in your peers and the institution, at large.

Climate Challenges Faced by College Students

Colleges and universities have long-standing practices in place that may be hard to change. This makes it challenging for individuals to adhere to rules while trying to make sustainable lifestyle choices. Not to mention, the stress of paper deadlines, studying for exams, and navigating new social networks can trump your motivation to take climate action. Similarly, environmental issues can add to your long list of stressors.

Amidst all of this, you may experience interruptions in your education due to increasingly extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, and intense heat waves. Health risks like air and water pollution can further complicate your newly found freedom. Plus, college students typically have a limited budget, peer pressure to follow trends, and predetermined meals. In the face of these challenges, though, you can be climate-conscious easier than it appears at first glance.

Sustainable Solutions and Strategies

Extenuating circumstances abound in college environments. However, there are also instruments in place that will work in your favor. From public transportation options to climate education opportunities, it’s important to use the resources your college gives you to your advantage to aid sustainability efforts.

Education and Awareness

College is inherently a time for discovery and growth. Navigating your academic journey will teach you a lot about yourself and your values, as well as give you the resources you need to learn about climate science and policy. You can be proactive about this by signing up for sustainability-focused courses, attending climate lectures, and reading research papers by your peers. As you progress in your college career, you can even get involved with climate research and innovation.

Advocacy and Activism

Further, you can get involved in campus clubs and groups to campaign for climate action or join climate strikes. Youth-centered activism has a profound impact when looking to raise awareness and change governmental policies. You can also make a difference on a granular level, urging your institution to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure. As weather becomes more extreme and pollutants become rampant, it’s in your college’s best interest to protect its students. Solar panels, green roofs, and water harvesting systems are some innovative ways to reduce pollutants and lower your college’s carbon footprint, boosting its reputation.

Future potential applicants will likely take note of the eco-conscious actions taken by the school. This innovation is helpful for everyone, including the college itself. Emergency preparedness at college is important to keep students and staff safe during extreme weather events but also serves as a model for other institutions to take similar action.

Personal Lifestyle Changes

Climate issues can also affect your lifestyle and personal effects. For example, if you have an on-campus car, extreme weather can damage your vehicle. Loose tree limbs can fall in storms, debris can hit your windshield, or increased heat and cold can lead to faster deterioration and more maintenance needs. Try to be proactive by parking in a covered garage or using a car cover.

Even better, you can use public transportation or carpool to class to reduce emissions. Biking and walking are also great options that lower your carbon footprint and model positive behavior for other students. In your dorm and on campus, try to conserve energy where you can by flipping off lights and air conditioning when you aren’t using them. Whenever possible, avoid purchasing single-use plastics, throwing away old tech, and partaking in fast fashion. You can even rent second-hand textbooks. Eco-friendly choices in college can be tough, but you can identify opportunities with a keen eye and creative outlook.

Eco-Friendly Colleges and Citizens of the Future

By taking advantage of college resources and the innovative environment it provides, you can take strides toward a more eco-friendly world. As a student, you can offer new perspectives on climate solutions and advocate for creative ways to reduce waste and help the environment during this global crisis.

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