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How to Show Colleges You Support Sustainability

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Environmental conservation and sustainability became a popular and partisan topic as a result of President Trump’s decision on June 1, 2017 to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. A New York Times article explains that The Paris Agreement, as it is commonly known, was initiated under the United Nations in 2015 and involved 195 countries. Its goal is to combat global warming and climate change, with special emphasis on the removal of harmful carbon emissions from the atmosphere.


Since President Trump made the decision, many companies in the U.S. private sector have come together to initiate eco-friendly policies in their own institutions. According to a recent article in Forbes, these companies include Cisco Systems Inc., McCormick and Co Inc., Microsoft Corp., and more.


While these U.S.-based corporations are just now making strides to support sustainability, many colleges and universities have been implementing sustainable practices on their campuses for years. It’s fairly common to see bike racks instead of parking lots, energy efficient light bulbs, and extensive recycling awareness at major colleges.


If you care about environmental issues, it could be worthwhile to get involved in sustainability projects in high school. Not only will you be making a positive impact on the planet, but also aligning yourself with the goals and initiatives of colleges you’re applying to. To discover what sustainability is and some ways to get involved, read on.


What is Sustainability?

Sustainability, also known as sustainable development, is all about using the Earth’s limited resources in ways that meet our present needs but do not prevent future generations from meeting their needs as well. Simply put, we should be able to enjoy our lives without damaging the environment and using up all natural resources.


Sustainable practices include using renewable energy sources, reducing the number of harmful carbon emissions in the atmosphere and oceans, and protecting our wildlife and forests from deforestation. While you personally may not be able to do all of this, there are things that you can do in high school and your everyday life to support these larger conservation goals.


Why should you try to show colleges you support sustainability?

Getting involved in sustainable development in high school is particularly important if you plan on pursuing a degree in environmental science or a related field. The issues of sustainable development and conservation will directly impact you in your studies, so it’s worthwhile to get a head start on understanding what sustainability is all about.


In addition, if you get involved in sustainability initiatives in high school, you may indicate to colleges how serious you are about your intended environmental science major and getting involved in environmental issues. You’re showing that you have an interest and passion in this subject and that you are working to make a difference.


If you are not considering an environmental major, it may still be worth it to show colleges you support sustainability. Since many colleges have implemented widespread sustainability initiatives on their campus, supporting sustainable practices can show an environmentally-conscious college that you share their ambitions and would be a good fit for the university.


Ways To Show Colleges You Support Sustainability


1. Start a Sustainability Initiative At Your School

While many colleges and universities have spearheaded the environmental conservation effort, many public and private high schools have been slow to get on board. This provides a unique opportunity for you to make your school more eco-friendly.


There are two main ways you can promote sustainable practices at your school. You can either start a sustainability initiative or join/start an environmental conservation club at your school.


We at CollegeVine have many guides on how to start a club in high school, so if that is the route you wish to take, you can refer to the following blog posts:



If you want to start a sustainability initiative in high school, here are some tips to get you started:


  • Decide What Your Initiative Will Be: This is essentially goal-setting. Do you want your initiative to raise general awareness, or do something specific for the school like reducing its water usage, reducing its electricity consumption, or reducing waste/recycling?
  • Garner Some Interest: Find some friends, peers, or fellow students that would be interested in spearheading this initiative with you.
  • Find an Adult to Help You: Find a teacher, community member, or outside organization to give you advice and help you get the resources you will need for your initiative.
  • Make a Detailed Plan: What are you going to do in order to achieve your initiative? If your goal is to reduce waste, are you going to put a recycling bin in every classroom? If you want to reduce water consumption, by how much, and how do you plan to do that? You also need to figure out how much your initiative is going to cost in the short run, how much it is going to benefit the school and the environment in the long run, and how you are going to implement your plans.
  • Get Approval for Your Initiative: Once you have the details of your sustainability initiative figured out, it’s time to set it in motion. In order to do that, you first need to get approval (and perhaps funding) from either the principal or the school board. Set up a meeting and sell your initiative to them with a well-constructed and rehearsed presentation. In your presentation, be sure to stress how your initiative will benefit the school, not just environmentally but also financially.


Once you’ve gotten approval and funding for your initiative, the next step is implementation. Hopefully, you have included an implementation strategy in your detailed plan, so this step is just about following the guidelines you set for yourself.


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2. Volunteer to Support Sustainability

There are two types of volunteering you can do to support sustainability. You could volunteer your time by going out on your own and doing activities like picking up trash at the nearest beach or planting gardens around your community. These are small, simple tasks that, if done frequently, can help the environment and show your commitment to colleges.


Another type of volunteering you can do is with official organizations that promote sustainability. These organizations include The Sierra Club, GreenPeace, The Conservation Volunteers, and more.


When you volunteer with an official organization, there are a variety of functions you can serve. You could volunteer internally within the organization by organizing events and other initiatives, or you could volunteer externally by participating in the organization’s events, protests, rallies, and other conservation efforts.


If you’re planning on volunteering with an organization, make sure you are eligible before you reach out to start working. There may be some age requirements or other specifications that make you ineligible to volunteer within the organization.


3. Join a Nonprofit Dedicated to Environmental Conservation

This goes beyond volunteering at events run by an official environmental organization. If you join a nonprofit environmental agency, you are dedicating yourself to that cause and organization by paying fees, becoming an official member, and committing yourself to aid in their efforts.


If you really want to make a difference, though, you have to do more than just become a member and pay the fees. You need to be an active member and participate in their events, protests, and conservation initiatives on a regular basis.


Also, note that you won’t be getting compensated for your time and efforts even though you’re an official member of the organization. You’ll still be doing mostly volunteer work, but just remember that it is for a great cause — planet Earth!


4. Inject Sustainable Practices Into Your Everyday Life

In addition to the large-scale initiatives and volunteer efforts to support sustainability, you can inject sustainable practices into your everyday life. These include small behavioral changes that are easy to implement.


For example, you can reduce carbon emissions by creating a carpool to and from school with your friends or even riding your bike to school. You could also reduce waste by cutting out plastic water bottles and using refillable ones instead. In addition, you can help save trees by using recycled paper, taking notes electronically if your teachers allow it, and using reusable bags at the grocery store. These are just a few simple options that can have a big impact on the environment.


If you’re concerned that such minor changes in your daily routine won’t have a place in your college application, think again. With a little work, you can find a way to mention your sustainable practices via your college essays or in the resume section of the application. When you mention your commitment to sustainability, make sure to include that you plan to continue those sustainable practices at the school.


Concluding Thoughts on Sustainability Efforts

On July 19, 2016, NASA reported that the Earth is breaking global temperature records on a monthly basis. In other words, the Earth’s climate is changing and getting warmer every year. Promoting sustainability will make sure that our kids and grandkids will have the same climate and access to resources that we do.


Also, promoting sustainability as a high school student could give you some great selling points for your college applications by showing your interests, passions, and commitment to worthwhile causes. You may even be aligning yourself with the college’s goals and vision, making you a good fit for the university.


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!