At the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, the 68 students in my Introductory Environmental Issues course at Lakehead - Orillia discussed environmental issues and their environmental footprints. While most of the students admitted that their lifestyles were not environmentally acceptable it remained to be seen if they would do something about this. Eight weeks later, the class was surveyed to see if they had in fact done anything about their environmental footprint. The multiple response survey generated 190 actions in 50 different categories.
Conservation around the house accounted for 93 responses with 22 students reporting that they were taking shorter showers. Other responses included doing laundry in cold water and washing dishes by hand. Reducing electricity use by turning off lights and unplugging electronic equipment were also popular and a few students had invested in energy efficient light bulbs. Turning the thermostat down was another common household act.
The three “Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) were mentioned in 48 responses with being more careful about recycling having the highest single score at 27. Shopping with reusable bags and reducing the use of the essentials of every student, notepaper and bottled water, were also listed. Changes in food habits including reducing the purchase of packaged goods while increasing vegetables and local produce were other popular responses.
Reducing transportation footprints accounted for 32 responses and included walking, car pooling, and trying not to idle the car. Seven students mentioned reducing their use of chemicals and there were a few unexpected but nonetheless environmentally friendly responses such as: quit smoking, stop littering, becoming more aware of local and international environmental issues, and driving more carefully to reduce road kill.
The City of Orillia has an active green campaign and the students at Lakehead - Orillia have become a meaningful part of it. They have discovered that many green actions do not cost anything and some even save money, a strong incentive for University students to do something.
Professor Reg Horne has over 20 years of teaching experience and is currently teaching Economic and Cultural Geography, Environmental Issues, and Climatology at the Orillia campus.