Spring break is here, and students can hardly wait for the moment when they can pack up, drive off, and be worry-free for a full week. While they have earned this much needed break from school, the places that students go over spring break are also subjected to this “worry-free” mindset. However, when students leave those places, the people there are left to clean up the mess. From the items students buy to the food they eat, everything has an impact on the world around them.

“It’s easy to use vacation as an excuse to be wasteful,” said Kevin Kirsche, UGA’s Director of Sustainability. “Instead of an excuse to be wasteful, you should look at this vacation time as a challenge to be extra conscientious and respectful of that place.”

The best way to combat waste begins before the trip. Before students purchase items to use on their trip, they should consider if they really need it, and if it will harm the environment they’re visiting. If the item is something that must be bought, students can make sure that it can be reused or recycled.

“If you’re buying a drink in a glass bottle at the store, choose aluminum instead, because it’s endlessly recyclable,” Kirsche said. “If you’re taking a cooler, make sure it’s reusable instead of styrofoam.”

Students also use spring break as a time to shop. Whether it’s new clothes or a gift for a friend, there are ways to make sure that purchase doesn’t harm the environment and community they’re in. Choosing local shops instead of large chains increases the livelihood of the people who live there while also increasing the chance that the items were made ethically.

“Spend your money at local shops and restaurants, and buy handmade products,” Kirsche said. “That will help you have a unique experience and support the people who are invested locally.”

While these actions may seem small, choosing sustainability over waste goes a long way. One of the most important ways to be sustainable is in food choice. When one person chooses to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, the planet sees that impact immediately. The same goes for eating produce that is in season and using reusable utensils.

“Most people shy away from it, but a lot of people find great health and environmental benefits through a vegetarian and vegan diet,” Kirsche said. “This, in addition to eating seasonally and carrying reusable cups, is a great place to start.”

Students are notorious for leaving trash and waste on the places they visit, and too much of this can have lasting effects on the health of that environment. Everyone wants to have a good time, but it’s important to understand the impact it can have on others.

“If you’re going there, you value that place and it’s beautiful,” Kirsche said. “Instead of trashing it, you can choose to respect the people and natural beauty of the place you’re in.”