Because college life is so hectic, students often put environmentally responsible consumption on the back burner. While this is understandable, it is also important that we all do our part to maintain the environment that we all share. Life is definitely busy, but we are still obligated to take care of the planet on which we live.

We can do this by intentionally patronizing business that prioritize environmentally conscious and ecologically sustainable practices. After all, finding responsibly sourced foods isn’t terribly difficult. Whether you need groceries or just a snack and quick cup of coffee, there are plenty of good options near campus.

I love a good health food store. Nothing makes me happier when shopping than seeing rows on rows of kombucha bottles displaying a variety of probiotics. However, I am also every bit as cash-strapped as the average college student, and as such, chain health food stores like Whole Foods are not a feasible option for me.

A wonderful alternative to these chains is Ozark Natural Foods. I discovered ONF as a freshman and began shopping there regularly when I moved off campus. One of the unique things about this grocer is the focus on community.

The store is dedicated to making local and sustainable groceries more accessible to everyone. For those who invest in the store’s ownership program, ONF keeps prices low on grocery essentials such as milk, bread and produce while still maintaining high quality by sourcing products directly from the surrounding area. The store also offers free cooking classes to anybody who is interested in learning how to cook healthy foods in an eco-friendly manner.

Additionally, the store is 100% community owned. Becoming an owner requires $10 per year fee for a 14-year membership that gives the recipient a voice in company policy. Membership also gives access to weekly sales and discounts.these weekly sales are what give ONF a competitive edge over store like Whole foods when it comes to pricing. ONF is a great alternative for anybody looking to shop sustainably on a restricted budget.

Groceries are clearly important, but equally important to every college student is coffee. Fayetteville is not at all short on quality study spots, but when it comes to the environment, not all cups are created equal.

Although local coffee shops of all shapes and sizes abound near the UofA, surprisingly, it is Starbucks that leads the pack in environmentalism. From cutting down on straws to reducing the materials required to make a cup, the corporation is always looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint.

Additionally, Starbucks takes great care to ensure that all of its products are responsibly sourced. As of now, 100% of its coffee is ethically sourced, and by 2020, the same will be true of its tea.  A 2018 article from USA Today discloses that Starbucks is green-lighting initiatives to eliminate plastic straws as well as committing to using clean energy in store in the U.S. and Canada.

The one drawback, inevitable in global chains, is that none of the food or beverages are made locally. So if a chain like Starbucks doesn’t quite cut it, there are plenty of local coffee shops that do.

One such example is Arsaga’s. Founded in 1992, the Fayetteville icon has been committed to local, sustainable sources since the very beginning. Additionally, Arsaga's even roasts its beans locally.

By ensuring that all foods and drinks served are directly from the community, Arsaga’s demonstrates an encouraging commitment to sustainable business practices, while still maintaining the financial success of the establishment. Ultimately, these sorts of practices should become the bare minimum for businesses in the coming years, and students can do their part by patronizing businesses that already possess strong sustainable models.

As students, we have a lot to worry about, but harming the planet does not have to be one of those things. It can seem like a great deal of trouble to research the environmental ethics of every retailer we buy from, but taking care of the environment in which we live is well worth the effort. With plenty of wonderful resources right here on the Hill, we don’t even have to go out of the way to put a little extra care into our shopping.


Emma Richardson is the opinion editor of the Arkansas Traveler. Emma worked as an opinion writer from 2018-2019.

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