This past New Year’s Eve, I had little trouble deciding what my resolution would be. Of course, the classic promises to go to the gym more often or to stop procrastinating entered my mind, but I discarded those ideas quickly when I remembered my first semester at UR. If you ask freshmen what the one thing was that stuck out to them most about their first semester here, you will probably get answers about the difficulty of the school work or the cold weather.

What I noticed, however, was quite different; I noticed the great amount of waste that we, as a campus, produce. So, when I was deciding on whether to skimp out on my New Year’s resolution by choosing one that I knew I wouldn’t follow through with or choosing one that I actually believed in, I opted for the latter.

When I came back from winter break, I started carrying around a Nalgene bottle and a reusable mug with me at all times. I told myself that I would use these instead of the disposable cups that you can get at the dining halls or Starbucks. I realize that this doesn’t seem like it would make much difference in how much waste is produced, and I can see where this thought is coming from.

I mean, there are around 4,000 undergraduates that go to this school. How much of a difference can one girl not using disposable cups make?

Well, to give you an idea, I’ve done a little math. Let’s say I eat two meals at the Pit a day (let’s be honest, nobody actually gets up for breakfast) and get coffee in the afternoon. That’s three cups a day, 21 cups a week and 84 cups a month. There are 161 days of school (including class days, reading days and exam days), so if this pattern continues for the entire school year, that’s a total of 483 cups. That’s a lot of cups saved by just one person. Can you imagine if all 4,000 undergraduates simply used reusable cups and mugs instead of disposable ones? If we all did it for the entire school year, that would be 1,932,000 cups saved! It would be even more if faculty, staff and graduate students joined in on the fun as well.

With Recyclemania happening, there is more of an emphasis on the “Recycle” part of the “Three R’s.” It’s easy to forget the “Reduce” and “Reuse” that come before it. Not using disposable cups is only a small piece of the puzzle.

The fact of the matter is, there are so many different ways to do your part. For example, when you go to the Corner Store to buy a few things, you can bring your own bag to carry the items. When eating a meal, try and only use one napkin or even a reusable one. If you’re printing a paper, print on both sides rather than just one. The list, seriously, goes on forever.

All of these things are very small, simple changes that have a large effect not only on River Campus, but also on the Earth. So next time you head to Starbucks for a latt, look around your room first for a mug. I bet you’ll be pleased to know that by making such a small decision you actually have a huge impact on the environment around you.

Cummings is a member of the class of 2011.

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