The environment, your sanity, and student budgets

By Charlie Brian Ambler

For the average student, being an environmentalist comes with a hefty price tag. Eating organic foods and exclusively supporting eco-friendly brands are expensive choices to make— especially if you’re spending upwards of $51,264 a year in tuition alone. For the majority of students, their wallets struggle to make the green choice.

To add fuel to the fire, the majority of students across the country hold strong feelings of guilt when it comes to the environment, and the role humans can play in harming it, according to The Lancet Planetary Health. A large part of this anxiety stems from the dire dilemma at hand: how does one maintain a student budget while spending in an eco-friendly manner?

The possibility of accomplishing both of these objectives lies within the strategy of mindful shopping. However, there is a need to shed light on the many issues that students face when trying to adapt.

It is difficult to balance a budget when a wave of financial burdens hits you every day. Inevitable costs related to tuition, room and board, textbooks, meal plans, and entertainment, can cause mountains of student debt and prevent the students from choosing the eco-friendly choice when purchasing items as essential as shampoo.

Environmentalists such as myself wish to practice spending in greener ways—because whether you like it or not, we live in a materialistic society, and individuals lack the power to single-handedly change this reality. Today, capitalism continues to triumph and wreak havoc on the planet’s welfare, while most carbon emissions are created by large corporations who struggle to find a reason to care.

Materialism has become so integrated into the minds of our generation that it has become inescapable. These two concepts shape the reality students live in. Materialism has forced us to cope with corporations who do nothing about the problems ahead of us and at the end of the day individuals such as myself, question if actions can engender change.

This is the root cause of the helpless feeling that so many environmentally inclined students suffer from. On campuses across the country, students are surrounded by climate change awareness and are being educated on the future, and naturally, the disasters to come. Students want to help! But this is where it becomes overwhelming for many students who wish to pursue an eco-friendly lifestyle, while financial constraints make it difficult for them to do so. I tend to belittle myself internally for not making a greater effort when it comes to climate change and my spending habits.

This is where anxiety and feelings of guilt thrive. Climate change anxiety has stemmed directly from this situation.

So, how can a student afford to save the planet?

By spending wisely! By being prudent in their day-to-day shopping, students can balance tight budgets and uphold environmental goals. Here are some of my favorite tips for students who wish to protect their environmental values while also protecting their budget.

The most valuable strategy comes down to brands and where their earnings go. It is difficult to spend money at stores where 100 percent of their products are recycled materials or made with zero emissions. An example is Patagonia, which is an expensive brand, yet its products are highly eco-friendly. However, most people save their money and shop at a store whose products may not be environmentally friendly.

There are some companies that will spend a significant amount of their yearly revenue on environmentalist groups. The Elephant Pants is a clothing brand that is wallet-friendly and sends a large portion of its earnings to conservation groups around the globe. You can have a sense of peace and a little less climate-change induced anxiety knowing that you have saved some money and helped an eco-friendly organization.

Organic food is surrounded by common misconceptions. Specifically, many students live under the impression that all organic food is far too expensive for their budgets. Farmers markets, however, are less expensive than most organic items found in local grocery stores. Boston Public Market at Dewey Square is a vast market thatthat operates every Tuesday and Thursday. Furthermore, these local farmers practice organic farming! Many are not yet certified organic by the USDA and therefore cannot officially claim their products are organic in stores.

A student can eat organic foods by simply extricating themselves from local grocery centers and following their local farmers market schedule (many of which operate year round). By sBy shopping for organic foods at these markets, students can support local farmers, protect their budgets, and practice an environmentally friendly way of life.

Feeling anxious about the environment and its future is normal. Money as a problem-solving tactic has been ingrained into society and its ways of functioning. Although these facets exist in our community, students can succeed as environmentalists. Farmers markets and strategic spending on items are two great ways to start.

As students, we must look at alternatives to save the environment, which do not have to come at a high cost. Climate change guilt and anxiety may be here to stay, but apathy can be avoided. Your student budget can be managed and you can still feel you’ve contributed.