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Sustainable Living Off Campus

“there are no such things as great deeds — only small ones done with great heart.” —mother theresa, founder of the missionaries of charity and nobel peace prize winner, 1979

Off-Campus Sustainability: Maintaining BC Conserves beyond Chestnut Hill


On campus, BC makes it incredibly easy to take part in conservation and sustainability efforts. Every Boston College student is inundated with the phrase “BC Conserves” before the end of their first semester on The Heights, and things like lights on timers, spring-loaded faucets, water-bottle filling stations, eco-competitions between dorms, and hundreds of recycling flyers and containers allow even the least conservation-minded students to impact efforts in a positive manner, or at least prevent these students from hindering efforts to a great degree.  BC conserves is an awesome mindset to have at all times, but what happens when a good portion of the junior class moves off campus?


Lliving off-campus during junior year is the first time most students are living in a residence, whether it is an apartment or house, that is not monitored by Boston College or their parents. It doesn’t require one to jump to conclusions to suggest that conservation and sustainability are not top priorities for off-campus students, and although we aren’t living on Boston College property, we are still part of the BC community, and are therefore responsible to keep up efforts regarding BC conserves. 


Common Problems 

Here are some common problems many offcampus student have contributed to or witnessed, and some easy fixes to these problem. Small changes can make an impactful difference when it comes to conservation and sustainability.

Problem 1: Poor Recycling Habits

Off campus residences, especially larger houses with many tenants tend to get messy pretty quickly. Water bottles, plastic food containers, and beer cans are just a few of the many recyclables that can accumulate steadily in any off-campus residence. When its time to clean up, student usual begin by throwing out anything and everything in sight. We shouldn forget the basics of recycling in order to finish the cleanup five minutes faster.


A solution here is to do a primary run through grabbing anything that can be recycled before anyone begins throwing out garbage. By prioritizing the recycling, everyone in the house will have it on their mind in the future, and may proactively recycle ahead of time!


Problem 2: Electric Usage

Growing up, most of us never had to worry about leaving electric devices on in the house. Our parents either scolded us so we stopped doing it, or turned the lights and TV off when we left the room. Similarly, when you live in a dorm there’s nothing to worry about as Boston College is paying the electric bill, and there are only a few lights and electrical devices that can be left on in the first place. However, in off campus residences there are lots of rooms, and often many more electrical devices consuming power. It is easy to forget about powering down, and we can get lazy about things like leaving stereos, TV’s, lights, and game systems on.


A good solution here is to take a good look at the electrical bill and provide financial incentives to the whole house. Sure, excess electrical usage may only amount to 20$ extra per person per month, but it is unnecessary wasted money. Looking at past bills, it is possible to pinpoint months that you have gotten lazy, and refocus your efforts after a bad month. Just having the electricity on your mind should be reminder enough to turn off that hall light or not leave your Xbox on.


Problem 3: Disposable Everything!

Many students buy paper plates, solo cups, and use disposable silverware. No need to clean your dishes, just throw them out! While this is certainly convenient, it is extremely wasteful and doesn’t prepare you for real life whatsoever. There are houses in which some of the residents use permanent utensils, plates, and cups while others, wanting to avoid dish duties, use strictly disposable items. This is especially bad, because now the house is using water to wash their dishes but also generating lots of excess waste from the disposable items. Even if these plastics can be recycled, one must remember that the phrase is “Reduce Reuse Recycle” and using disposable items jumps right to the third of the three choices. 


Simply to stick to permanent items as much as possible. They will help keep off-campus houses more tidy, prepare to maintain a real household someday, and most importantly cut down on lots of daily waste.

About the Author: Gannon Voelbel, Boston College alum, graduated with a degree in Economics and Biology.