Back to School 2008 | Green & Mean: Using fewer natural resources can often save your own green. | Back to School | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

Guides » Back to School

Back to School 2008 | Green & Mean: Using fewer natural resources can often save your own green.


Unless you’ve been living in a cave lately—hunting your food, clothing yourself in shrubbery and drinking rain water (in which case you’ve already got this nailed)—you’ve probably been hounded about “going green.” If you’re a college student, there’s no avoiding it. You’ve been told to sell your car, buy a smaller home, invest in corn, eat twigs, drink soy, capture sunlight, harness wind, wear organic, save whales, choose life and squeeze into a youth-size carbon footprint. Noble actions, no doubt. But sometimes the world moves too fast to worry about footprints. And as a student with homework, quizzes, papers, finals, roommates, love lives, minimum wages and tuition in mind, life moves at light speed.

However, a closer look at “going green” just might slow things down and earn you some eco-points with that cute Environmental Studies major in your math class. It could even save you green.

At the University of Utah, with average gas prices in Utah hovering around $4 per gallon and campus parking permits ranging from $66-$132, commuter students are dropping a lot of green just to get to class. However, this need not be. The U of U (as well as Salt Lake Community College and Westminster College) provide discounted public-transportation passes for students. At the U, a fee of $10-$40 per semester, depending upon course load, is added to one’s tuition for access to Utah Transit Authority’s light-rail and bus lines. UTA’s light-rail system runs from Sandy north to downtown and up to the University of Utah. The recently unveiled Frontrunner train runs Salt Lake to Ogden. And in the works are lines to West Valley, “Mid-Jordan,” Draper and the Salt Lake International Airport.

In Salt Lake County alone, UTA operates more than 80 bus lines. Make good use of these and you could be saving hundreds of dollars per month.

Another way to save is to hit the tarmac yourself. Walking and biking may seem juvenile to a newly liberated college student but protecting personal and planetary resources should not. Bike collectives at the U ( and Salt Lake City ( provide resources for acquiring, repairing and safely operating bikes.

While you’re saving money, you’ll also be saving the planet. The American Public Transportation Association reports that traveling “green” with public transportation reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. That’s equivalent to the electricity used by 4.9 million households.

Publish or perish: This professor’s mandate puts the screws to broke students who are forced to purchase the infamous, ever-updated, never-really-improving, 137th edition of a textbook that its author swears is integral to complete learning. Well, news flash, it’s not! New textbooks cost students more money and rob our planet more of its precious resources.

America tosses out 71.6 million tons of paper each year, representing 40 percent of America’s annual waste output, all while students spend an average of $700 a year on these rearranged rainforest palms and while textbook prices are rising at twice the rate of annual inflation over the past two decades.

Some profs are realizing the errors of their ways, going both cheaper and greener with online textbooks, resources and homework assignments. Affordable online textbook databases, such as, and, have popped up across the Web in recent years, saving students money and reducing paper waste.

If the thought of reading all that online text makes your eyes ache, buy books used. You’ll do the planet and your pocketbook the same favor. Check out and other online book dealers as well as off-campus book dealers such as Bucks 4 Books (1330 E. 200 South) and PJ’s College Books (1935 W. 4700 South).

While the thought of carrying around a bulky coffee mug might sound awkward and unnecessary when you sip from a paper cup, toss it and run, utilizing reusables saves money quick.

Remember the film Office Space? Where the guys plan to steal a fraction of a fraction of a cent each day to eventually amass a fortune and screw over their employer? Yeah, they blow it, but it’s the same concept.

If you bring your mug to the cafeteria three times a day, fill it with coffee three times a day, you pay a refill cost of $1 three times a day (instead of paying $2 each time), you’re going to save yourself $3 a day. Carry that across the school week, you’ve saved $15 dollars. Carry that across a year, you’ve got roughly $753 in your pocket. And you’ve avoided wasting all those paper cups and plastic lids. Salt Lake City’s premier source for reusable goods is the Earth Goods General Store located at 1249 S. 900 East. Here you’ll find everything from carry-along water bottles and coffee mugs to organic clothing and biodegradable cleaning products.

Living “green” as a college student will make this planet a nicer home for our grandkids while saving us a little cash for spring break. It doesn’t mean running off to the woods to try on evergreen undergarments—just making a few little changes. Go green. Save green.