There are 35000 undergraduate and 8000 graduate students at UBC-Vancouver, 4000 faculty members, and who knows how many staff. Together we can make a difference. Here are a couple suggestions to start off for the love of our planet:

Don’t get the wrong idea. What I mean is coffee, tea, pop, bottled juice, and Tim Horton’s wonderful drinks that no UBC students can live without. Yes, this sounds extreme coming from me, a hard-core caffeine addict since I stepped foot at UBC. However, think of how many paper cups, plastic cup lids, plastic stirrers, cup sleeves, little packets of sugar and cream we can save! Using myself as an example, on average I buy 3.5 cups of coffee a week (very conservative estimation). This means 182 paper cups, lids and stirrers etc. per year. Let’s assume 50% of UBC students and faculty drink coffee/tea (again, a conservative estimation), and 50% of these people are evil and don’t use coffee mugs. We are talking about two million one hundred and thirty-eight thousand and five hundred cups, lids, stirrers, cup sleeves per year! I know temptation is huge during Tim Horton’s rrroll up the rim to win time – RESIST IT! Think of the environment, Say NO to caffeine! See also point #2.

As for pop and juice – all these high-sugar commercial drinks are BAD FOR YOU and you know it! Why not kill two birds with one stone and just bring a bottle of water with you? This means less sugar, fewer calories and bottles and cans, and a reduced number of recycling and garbage bins (they are made of plastic too). Basically less harm to our environment and health!

Well, this is closely related to points #1. Think about it, coffee/tea are diuretics. If we give up coffee/tea, we will need fewer washroom visits. The possible environmental and economical impact this would create is phenomenal. Think of the toilet paper, paper towels, flush water, and tap water we would save! Using a personal example once more: on average I use 6 squares of toilet paper (stupid single-ply toilet paper! Sometimes I have to use more, depending on my mood), 0.7 L water for hand wash, 2 paper towels, and one flush (~15L) per washroom visit. (I hope I still have friends after this is published.) If we can reduce our washroom visits by 2.5 times a day, over a year each person will be saving 3287.25 squares of toilet paper, 1826.25 paper towels, 13696.9 L of toilet flush water, and 639.2 L of tap water for hand wash! Multiply that by 47000 students and faculty! You do the math.

This is closely related to point #2 above. Did you know that each typical toilet flush uses 14 – 20L of water? And each time our urine volume is about 0.25 L (assuming 6 pee-breaks a day; on average 1.5 L of urine is produced per day in total). I am no mathematician, but common sense tells me that it is wasteful to flush our urine with 56 times the volume of water every time! Why not collect a couple of number ones before flushing? I recommend trying at home first. But next time someone “forgets” to flush the toilet, cut him/her some slack. It could be me saving the planet.

Most students (especially graduate students) are poor, and most bring their own food in sad Tupperware containers anyway. But if you are those who drive nice cars, buy Starbucks coffee and eat out everyday, consider bringing your own cutlery. Think of all the disposable forks, spoons, knifes, cups, plates, take-out boxes etc. you can save! You can buy a stainless steel camping cutlery set from any outdoor stores for < $5 (and for those who drive “beemers” to UBC, silverware works too). Also, that stainless steel knife/fork makes a great defence weapon. Someone tries to mug you? A fork-in-the-eye! This makes UBC campus a much safer place for all. 5. REFUSE TO HAND IN PAPERS/HOMEWORK Homework SUCKS. So go tell your professor that you are not killing more trees and creating garbage by boycotting homework, assignments, papers etc. (well, unless it’s through electronic submission I guess). Or, if you are a goody-goody and absolutely must comply with the authority, use size 8 fonts, 0.25-inch margins, single-space, and both sides of the paper! I encourage the professors to do the same with notes. Who doesn’t have a computer these days? Go digital! 6. RECYCLE YOUR LAB “DISPOSABLES” Alright, for all those scientists who are generating more litter than – well, Americans – it is time to reflect on all the lab plasticwares that we chuck out. I am talking about pipette tips, pipette tip boxes, disposable aspirating pipettes, urine collection containers, microcentrifuge tubes, cryogen tubes, 96-well plates, disposable test tubes, petri dishes, transfer pipettes etc. A lot of times they haven’t even touched hazardous materials. We should either re-use them, or put them in the recycling blue box (most of these plasticwares are polypropylene, plastics code 5, and accepted by most recycling programs). The effort will all be worthwhile just to see the expressions on the UBC Health, Safety and Environment and UBC waste management people when they find out our little recycling exercise. And how wonderful would it be to see a garbage/recycling bin on campus made out of your old pipette tips? Disclaimer: the author is not affiliated with the government, the recycling industry, any environmental group, any political parties, UBC Health, Safety and Environment, UBC waste management, Starbucks, BMW, Tim Horton’s, outdoor camping stores, toilet manufacturers, or any competing companies or opposing organizations to the above mentioned. Although really enlightened by this piece she wrote herself, she does not plan to give up coffee or Tim Horton’s ice cappuccinos; nor has she started rebelling against homework – yet. The author intends to make recycling her New Year resolution for 2007. She is still working on her 2006 resolution (to clean her room) with little progress. References

  1. The University of British Columbia Public Affairs. UBC Facts & Figures 2004 / 2005 [online]. Available from [Accessed March 16, 2006].
  2. The Greater Vancouver Region District (GVRD). Use Water Wisely brouchure. Available from [Accessed March 30, 2006].
  3. Sherwood, Lauralee. “The Urinary System”. Human Physiology: from Cells to Systems. 4th Ed. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole; 2001. 482 – 527.
  4. Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC). Special News & Views Report: Different Applications, Different Plastics. July 2001. Available from

Related Topics


Lillian Ting used to be a geeky chemist until she converted to the dark (or bright) side – drugs. She is currently a happy (generally speaking) PhD student in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC working on a clinical study involving transplant recipients and immunosuppressants. She loves sunshine, caffeine, shopping, partying, and sushi – and tends to talk a lot. She can be found hanging out at UBC, Children’s and Women’s Hospital, VGH, St. Paul’s Hospital, the BC Transplant Society, and the malls.