Recent headlines portray a world in peril: The Amazon rainforest is on fire, ice caps are melting, and natural disasters are worsening every year. It's easy to feel helpless when reading the news, but there's plenty you can do as a college student. With classes resuming and students settling into campus, now is a great time to join college environmental clubs that organize students to take action where it counts.

Perhaps you're a high school student interested in the most environmentally friendly colleges, or maybe you're just starting college and want to know how to help. We interviewed three clubs that encourage students to get involved with climate activism, take a stand against environmental exploitation, and fight for a better, greener world. Each club also provided tips and tricks to help you make a difference and encourage your friends, family, and school to help out as well. Check out the interviews below.


University of California Berkeley ReUSE

The root cause of the waste that people create is overconsumption and materialism. If students can be mindful about their purchase and usage of single-use items, they help the environment. For example, purchasing reusable water bottles and a metal straw can reduce single-use plastics.

Who are you?

We run the ReUSE Store, a campus nonprofit thrift store staffed by student volunteers. We take donations and trades of clothing and other household items from the UC Berkeley community and give them back to the community through our store. We are committed to creating a more sustainable environment through the promotion of reuse and by making items affordable for students.

How does your organization help students get involved on campus?

We host various special events on campus, such as Tie Dye during Earth Week and Freecycling. Committee members plan and host special events. We also collaborate with other student clubs.

What can students do as individuals to help the environment?

Students can try to reduce their use of single-use items and be conscious of the impact that the consumption economy and those involved in the fashion industry have on the environment. They can reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion by shopping at thrift stores for gently-used items at a fraction of the cost.

In general, students can reduce their waste by remembering the "five R's" principle: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair. The root cause of the waste that people create is overconsumption and materialism. If students can be mindful about their purchase and usage of single-use items, they help the environment. For example, purchasing reusable water bottles and a metal straw can reduce single-use plastics.

What can students do to encourage their friends, family, or schools to be more aware of environmental issues?

Students can encourage everyone to be friendly to the environment. It's not hard to carry a lightweight, foldable, reusable bag so that you don't need to purchase a single-use plastic bag for an impromptu purchase!

In general, encourage others to continually try to do good. Whether through joining a mailing list, reading the news online, or staying involved in current politics that involve the environment, every person can continually improve their interactions with the world around them.


Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice

We have the right to live and raise families and grow old in a livable world — and the way we're headed, that right is threatened.

Who are you?

Because we believe that environmentalism and social justice are inseparable, Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice (HUEJ) works alongside the Harvard and greater Boston communities to fight systems of injustice that place environmental burdens disproportionately on vulnerable and marginalized communities.

How does your organization help students get involved on campus?

We are a project-based organization, meaning that each semester HUEJ members propose environmental justice-related projects, and our organization then takes on three or four of these projects to pursue for the semester. In the past, projects have included Green Orientation — a group working to create an orientation program centered around environmental issues and climate justice for incoming first years as they arrive at Harvard — and Sweet Injustice, a campaign to raise awareness on campus about the social cost of sugar.

What can students do as individuals to help the environment?

First and foremost, students can get involved in political organizing or activism around environmental issues. Voting for candidates who place importance on environmental issues, climate change, and climate justice is incredibly important. Get involved with local environmental campaigns. If there's a fossil fuel divestment campaign on your campus, that is a great way to get involved. If not, start one.

What can students do to encourage their friends, family, or schools to be more aware of environmental issues?

As students, we have a unique platform on this issue; because the effects of climate change will hit young people the hardest and continue to affect us throughout our lifetimes, we have unique moral ground to call for change. We have the right to live and raise families and grow old in a livable world — and the way we're headed, that right is threatened. Thus, young people have the opportunity and privilege to engage in activist work that has the power to reach broader platforms. Just take Greta Thunberg, as an example.


University of Texas at Austin Students Fighting Climate Change

As an individual, the most important thing one can do is to have a conversation with their family, their friends, or anyone who will listen about the severity of this crisis.

Who are you?

The purpose of Students Fighting Climate Change is to educate our community on the severity of the climate crisis. We do this through partnering with other local activist groups, presentations, social media, and our newsletter, with the goal of proliferating the information needed to fight for our future.

How does your organization help students get involved on campus?

Our organization connects students to peers who share a mutual interest in their future and with other student organizations who have similar goals to ours. We are also in the works of starting on-campus projects with the goal of making UT a more sustainable campus.

What can students do as individuals to help the environment?

As an individual, the most important thing one can do is to have a conversation with their family, their friends, or anyone who will listen about the severity of this crisis. While limiting meat consumption, avoiding flying, and taking low-emission transportation is a huge help, the greatest thing students can do is spread the message and inform themselves.

What can students do to encourage their friends, family, or schools to be more aware of environmental issues?

Educating yourself on the issues and connecting them to something that is important to you and the person you're talking to. For instance, if you are talking to your parents about the climate crisis, you can express how important it is for your future. Another way is to connect them to local action; that way you are tangibly helping your shared environment.